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Parish Magazine Letters from 2013
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STAPLEHURST PARISH MAGAZINE is far more than just a Church Magazine; it contains a lot of information about a wide range of organisations, activities and events of general interest in the village. It also carries advertisements for many of the local tradesmen and businesses.
All this for just £1.00 per month (or £10.00 per year).
In a village appraisal the Magazine was voted the best source of information available in the village, which is probably why around half the households in the village already subscribe.
For a complimentary copy of Staplehurst Parish Magazine, totally without obligation, contact Sue de St Jorre on (01580) 893922 or Email: Sue de St Jorre
We are confident that you will be impressed!
Sue de St Jorre (Distribution)The Magazine Committee
CHRISTMAS MESSAGE FROM THE READER
As I write this letter, I can hardly believe that we are heading for the season of Advent, and Christmas will soon be round the corner. Christmas is a time when we often sit around with family and friends telling stories and remembering times past. Many of us have Christmas family traditions such as making the cake or the puddings together. We enjoy telling stories of how things used to be. It is good to share memories and recollections, to make people smile and to maintain some of the family traditions.
However I wonder how many of us feel as compelled to share the story of the true meaning of Christmas with our family and friends. That amazing story of how God came to live among us in human form through the birth of a baby to parents who enjoyed none of life's advantages, who lived a basic life in a remote town, and whose very existence relied on the support and love of their relatives and community. In many ways it is a very simple story and yet it has had a profound effect on the world over two millennia. It is a story that generates deep faith in some, hostile rejection in others; it is a story that initiates complicated and intense theological debate, yet brings peace and comfort to many who are unable to even read or write. It is a story though that can actually be quite hard to tell, so what are we to do?
Well sometimes stories don't always need to be told in words. This Christmas why not think about how you can share the message of the Christmas story through actions. The cards you send - will they contain a brief message pertaining to the story of Jesus' birth? The presents you give - perhaps you might consider ethical gifts, gifts bought from a charity that works with communities overseas to bring peace or with individuals at home to bring sustenance and independent living? Could you invite a neighbour or a lonely person to share your Christmas dinner or offer a cup of tea and some cake and a listening ear for an hour or two over the Christmas period? Christmas is the opening chapter of a story about a loving and gracious God who gave everything he could to understand us, to empathise with us and to show us how much he cares. The greatest way in which we can share that story is by living it and not just retelling it.
May you, and all those whom you love and care for, have a very happy and meaningful Christmas, and a peaceful New Year.
SonjaBack to Top
Remembering for the Future
All Saints Church is a place in which people remember, commemorate and celebrate all that was, is and will be. People in Staplehurst have done so since the first foundation stones of this church were laid around the 1100 century. The Rector's vestry has huge black tablets on the wall that witness to the service of men and women from the Victorian era. The inscriptions show generous donations from people to help the poor, the widows and money used for good causes like helping with education for those who could not afford it. In the church and all around are commemoration plaques, stained glass windows, graves honouring individuals and families for the love they spread.
Because the Church is so old, for some it may be a mere pretty historical building, and worth sustaining for just its historical value, but especially at times of Remembrance it is such a tangible and real place where history connects the hearts of the living with the dead. For centuries people have set up those commemorative connections, because remembering is a means of defining who we are, where we come from and in so doing weave ourselves into the make-up of human history that will tell its story for the future generation.
If you think the church is an old, cold and outdated historical building, you are really mistaken. Old yes, cold, hmm, we have heating which costs a fortune, outdated, not a little bit. The church is like a magnet of souls that honours a richness of human lives. It is very moving to be at the threshold of welcoming overwhelming numbers of families that bring their babies for baptism because of a long family tradition. Also many want to get married at All Saints, because that is the church in which they were baptised and many want to be buried here, because they were born, baptised and married here and so were their ancestors.
There is not a single day when there are not candles lit in St. George's chapel for someone, living or dead, but loved and felt so close to whoever strikes the match. Every day I pray and give thanks to God for the blessings received upon this Parish Church.
I would like to take the opportunity to thank you all for your support you offer in so many ways, through prayer, donations and a lot of hard work. Without your generosity, and long may it last, we could not provide the same support to Staplehurst people, just as your ancestors did from a long time ago.
With all God's Blessings for this season of remembering.
SilkeBack to Top
I am glad I managed to get to the Flower Show at the Village Centre this year. I was just in time to see all the wonderful displays, but people had started packing up. A bit like the wonderful summer we have had - it is "packing up". There is a chill in the air. Not long before leaves will change colour and drop. Although they are useful to make up new bags of leaf mulch, it is very obvious that we have come to the end of a season. It truly is Harvest time. The meaning of the word Harvest is the process of gathering mature crops.
Eight weeks ago I adopted a rescue dog. I don't know much about his background, only that he was a stray, found in Wales, and that he is about five years old. I know that he was in a dog fight and you can see the scars on his nose. Stray, rescued and scared, I thought I will not call him "Lucky", but Bertie.
After Bertie had been living with me for a couple of weeks, emotional scars appeared. Unfortunately he chases cars and barks at every passing dog. Living in the High Street with a constant stream of traffic and with Staplehurst residents being keen dog lovers, Bertie's antisocial behavior makes his, and my life slightly stressful. Therefore I got in touch with the dog behaviorist from the Dog Trust and my instructions are to avoid cars and other dogs whilst I do some training with him that, hopefully, will change his mind. This means that every morning I drive to the place where we start our traffic free walk surrounded by countryside where mist blanketing the fields and beautiful sunrises clock us in to the beginning of the new day. The footpaths lead us along fields and woods with rabbits hopping about, Mr. Fox lying in the sun, squirrels being cheeky little monkeys and Bertie is having a marvelous time sniffing God knows what. I fill my lungs with fresh air and feel truly blessed with those pure morning hours free from any pollution. This one hour every morning feels perfect in every regard, but of course I know that if I had to depend on the countryside for living, life would be far from romantic. A life depending on the land is a life of uncertainty.
My dog behaviorist told me that I cannot change who Bertie is, but I can do something to improve his condition. Any relationship we, as human beings, enter is a relationship that is interdependent. It means we are given situations out of our control and at the same time responsibility to make the most of it for the benefit of all depending on it. Responsibility and dependency are the two key words.
Have you noticed that a lot of fields have had their hedgerows cut back? Do you know why? Do you know who lives in hedgerows? Can you tell the difference from one hedgerow to another? You may think hedgerows are hedgerows, just like dogs are dogs, but every kind is designed for a particular purpose.
If you want to know more about hedgerows and what they have to do with Harvest, and what dogs have got to do with it, come to our Harvest Festival Service on Sunday 6th October, 10.00am at All Saints Church followed by lunch in the parish room. All are welcome. If you stay for lunch, don't worry you do not have to eat a hedgehog, only let us know, for numbers, that you are coming!
Water freely with patience and cultivate with love.
SilkeBack to Top
DO UNTO OTHERS
I hope you all had a good rest and that you feel ready to face the new term. New beginnings are exciting and we all want a good new start at school, at work, in retirement or whatever we are involved in. Experience tells me that soon, for some of us, we will be up against the daily stresses and all holiday relaxation effects seem a distance memory. I came across a story I would like to share with you, as I think it will put us on a very good path for a new beginning.
A frail old man went to live with his son, daughter-in-law, and four-year-old grandson. The old man's hands trembled, his eyesight was blurred, and his step faltered. The family ate together at the table. But the elderly grandfather's shaky hands and failing sight made eating difficult. Peas rolled off his spoon onto the floor. When he grasped the glass, milk spilled on the tablecloth.
The son and daughter-in-law became irritated with the mess. "We must do something about Grandfather," said the son. "I've had enough of his spilled milk, noisy eating, and food on the floor." So the husband and wife set a small table in the corner. There Grandfather ate alone while the rest of the family enjoyed dinner.
Since Grandfather had broken a dish or two, his food was served in a wooden bowl. When the family glanced in Grandfather's direction, sometimes he had a tear in his eye as he sat alone. Still, the only words the couple had for him were sharp admonitions when he dropped a fork or spilled food.
The four-year-old watched it all in silence. One evening before supper, the father noticed his son playing with wood scraps on the floor. He asked the child sweetly, "What are you making?" Just as sweetly, the boy responded, "Oh, I am making a little bowl for you and Mama to eat your food in when I grow up."
The four-year-old smiled and went back to work. The words so struck the parents that they were speechless. Then tears started to stream down their cheeks. Though no word was spoken, both knew what must be done.
That evening the husband took Grandfather's hand and gently led him back to the family table. For the remainder of his days he ate every meal with the family. And for some reason, neither husband nor wife seemed to care any longer when a fork was dropped, milk spilled, or the tablecloth soiled.
Children are remarkably perceptive. Their eyes ever observe, their ears ever listen, and their minds ever process the messages they absorb. If they see us patiently provide a happy atmosphere for family members, friends and neighbours they will imitate that attitude for the rest of their lives. The wise parent realises that every day the building blocks are being laid for the child's future.
Life is about people connecting with people and making a positive difference. So take care of yourself, and all around you, today and every day!
SilkeBack to Top
As this is the first time I have been asked to write the letter for our magazine I thought I would introduce myself to those who do not know me.
I am an Authorised Lay Minister (ALM) in the Canterbury Diocese. My role in this parish is as a pastoral minister. I am licenced to take Holy Communion to people in their own home if they are unable to get to Church, and I will visit anyone who needs to chat to me or is feeling lonely. I also, if you wish, will visit anyone who has been bereaved who would like a sympathetic ear when everyone else has gone back to their own lives. I usually am in contact with the next of kin, initially by phone, some time after a funeral which has been carried out through the parish church. I do not necessarily know about other funerals. I am a Funeral Officiant. This means that for the last four years I have been privileged, and licenced, to take funerals, both in church and at crematoria, and also bury bodies or ashes in the churchyard.
Have you visited the churchyard? It is such a peaceful area. Although the church is by the main road, once you walk round the side, you feel set apart from the busy world. A lot of people walk through, either with their dogs or just on a ramble, or to visit graves. If you haven't been it is well worth a visit. It is a typical country churchyard with very old and very new graves. It is easier to read the inscriptions on the old graves if the surface is wet. Parts of the grounds are left to wild life, but most of the grass is kept mown by our helpful and friendly lawnmower wielder. You may meet Terry, our grave digger, who quietly and efficiently carries out his duties.
If you want a place to sit and listen to birds, sometimes soak up the sun, or sit and recollect and recharge your inner self, then this is a good place to go. Before you leave for the busy world, pop into church, which is always open in daylight hours, and feel at peace, as you think of all the villagers who, over the centuries, have walked through those doors. Many of them would have worshipped there, but many would have just popped in. Everyone is welcome, and in St Georges Chapel there is a stand where you may wish to light a candle and think or pray and rest a while. The peace and love of God be with you.
All good wishes,
Audrey BullockBack to Top
THE BENCHMARK FOR GOOD IS GOD
Recently somebody ask me if one can be a good person without believing in God.“Yes, why not?” I answered. Everybody can be good regardless of the fact that he, or she, has a particular faith. Even the great Christian thinkers never doubted that.
Saint Paul was convinced that God implanted into every human being a sense for what is good. We don't need to be believers in order to know that we need to help an injured person and that committing fraud is wrong. On the other hand of course we have no guarantee that people with a religious belief always decide to do what is right and good.
Nevertheless, I do see a difference between believers and non-believers. Our own morals are always put to the test when I start to ask: Is it worthwhile for me to be, or do good? Don't I get more out of it if on this occasion I don't do what is right? Am I not much better off if I slightly move the goal post?
To run a business one has to be ruthless, I was once told. So when it is to our advantage, are we permitted to forget about what is right and what is wrong? And that is exactly what I mean. If my own wellbeing is the benchmark for good and evil then I will only do what is good for me and when it is useful to me.
It is something else when I am accountable to God for my conduct, or inspired by his unconditional love, or model my intentions on the charity of the life of sacrificial Saints.
Only faith opens my eyes in order to realise that it is far more important for my humanity to believe in a God who reassures me of his love and whose justice I have to reckon with. Also, that at every moment of my life there is more at stake than just my own advantage. When I know that, then I no longer find the decision to choose the good that difficult and the decision for evil not so easy.
SilkeBack to Top
DO YOU FIND PETROL STATIONS EXCITING?
I can think of more exciting places, but it is essential, when you, like me, depend on your car to take you to most places. As much as petrol stations are essential for our cars to run smoothly, so are we ourselves in need of recharging our batteries. By the end of a busy term I like the idea of going somewhere to relax, but I agonize dreadfully over the whole aspect of organizing my going away and especially the packing of my suitcase. I never know what to pack and usually end up with too much of everything. But I know a change of place will be good for me. I know it will be nice to spend time with friends and I know I love seeing new places. Until I am actually on my journey, I feel as if I am on auto pilot, doing all my travel preparations and find every decision I have to make arduous. But, oh boy, when I am back, I am full of energy and buzzing with new ideas. I feel myself beaming, I feel refreshed, happy, energized and a stronger person. Well, that I feel a stronger person has something to do with that my walking holidays take me along some very risky paths and sometimes I am glad I haven't broken anything or worse.
Is it essential to “risk your life” to be a better person? No not at all, but I believe a change of place can effect a change of attitude and to be exposed to unexpected challenges makes you discover yourself anew, your strengths and weaknesses. By getting to know yourself you are less threatened, but more tolerant towards those who are different from you. With all the violence that is going on in the world we need to be so much more tolerant with one another, because society depends on us to live with our neighbours peacefully in order to function well within diversity.
Going out of the comfort of my home and joining other people is essential for the renewal of energies. It is in the taking of risks and exposure to the unexpected and sometimes challenging situations that we will grow and understand a little bit more about God's purpose for our lives. It is not always exciting and often against all the odds, but in the synergy of the known and unknown it is where God's mysterious spirit generates electricity that refuels our batteries so that we get smoothly through life.
I hope you will have a good summer, and that you feel sufficiently fired up for your challenges.
SilkeBack to Top
Be it a party, or meetings, or watching a good film, or visitors that are staying with me, whatever it is I have not laughed so much for a long time as I have this last year. What in life brings you joy?
Perhaps stumbling across something of beauty, like a delicate shape and colour and a sweet scent. Field poppies do that for me, because they are gritty and tough and bright and they make me smile.
For some, joy might be found in catching sight unexpectedly of animals or birds, like the glimpse of a deer. Maybe you wait patiently beside a lake or river, watching the ducks, geese and moorhens glide as the sun sparkles on the water. Or maybe it's the seaside that does it for you, watching and listening to the rhythm of the waves breaking on the shore.
The ocean reminds me of God's vastness - such a store of vitality and source of life, nourishing us and sustaining us yet more deep and wide than we can ever know.
Babies also make me smile. It's something about their newness, their vulnerability and their innocence, utterly dependent and with all the world to grow in. Each Baptism celebrated at Church fills me with joy. Joy also comes from meeting with a loved one and settling to a sense of contentment as you spend time with them.
Joy can be found in so many things - a glorious sunset, a piece of music, appreciation of art, shared laughter, in knowing you are loved-you can no doubt add many things to the list.
I hope that each of us may also have on our list that our faith bring us joy, knowing we are loved by God; a deep joy that may become our default setting as we grow in our relationship with God and bubbles up into rejoicing. It is a joy that is both a gift of the Holy Spirit and a consequence or a fruit of the Spirit's activity in our lives.
My prayer for you this Easter Season, and especially for Pentecost, is that you will know deep joy in your relationship with God, because God loves you and that joy will rise up and overflow into rejoicing as you live a life of worship and service, bringing lightness of heart and a sense of belonging to your neighbour.
May all joy be yours in believing,
SilkeBack to Top
During the season of Lent the church is stripped of most of its decorations like, for example, flowers and in part its music in Worship. This is because Lent is the time when Christians imitate Jesus' experience in the desert, where he is stripped of any luxuries and has nothing left but to come face to face with God. To go through a period of abstinence from things that comfort us, makes us appreciate them more when we take them up again. It is a humbling experience to realise, and not to take for granted how very fortunate we are, and yet we seem to have never ending reason to grumble about this, that or the other.
If you have partaken in the imitation on Jesus' 40 days and nights in the wilderness, which is a long and dreary time, Easter Sunday cannot be experienced as anything other than a God given, glorious, uplifting experience, because we are catapulted back into the fullness of life with all its beauty.
One expression and understanding by the church about God's amazing, mysterious but beautiful creation was through music. The proportion of the spheres of planets and stars were perceived as a form of music and later developed in thinking that all things are connected and of beneficiary effect. So you will find that there is a strong connection between music and religion. Music communicates the divine infinitely in a way human words can never be capable off.
All Saints Church, with its appreciation of all that makes for a full life, shouts from the roof top its excitement about sharing opportunities of embracing such various expressions of it. We are delighted to be able to invite you to evenings of extraordinary enjoyment.
In May we expect guests from Russia and Africa, who will perform two very different programmes with music and dance from their homeland. The Hermitage Ensemble from St. Petersburg will entice us with their great tradition of Russian sacred music and folksongs. Members of the Ensemble are chosen from amongst the finest soloists performing in St. Petersburg's opera, musical theatre and churches. I was fortunate to have had their manager, Natalia Aksuticheva, who is a professional pianist, visiting me over Christmas and rekindling our friendship from 10 years ago. When I asked her if she would consider coming back with her Ensemble and give a concert in aid of All Saints Church, she said: 'or Staplehurst I do anything'.
And here we are, I am so thrilled to be able to invite you to our first May concert given on Wednesday, 8th May, 8,00pm at All Saints Church. Tickets (£7.00 incl. a glass of Wine) will be available from April onwards from various shops and places, watch out for posters or simply contact me.
The other concert is on Saturday 25th May, 7.30pm in Church. We are extremely fortunate to be able to welcome Zulu Warriors. For more information please speak to Doreen Braganza.
I look forward to welcoming you to All Saints Church.
SilkeBack to Top
If you would like to look at previous Clergy Letters see below: