Parish Magazine ~ June 2020
Due to the Coronavirus ‘Lockdown’ of March 2020 onwards, th Parish magazine is published mainly online and only a few copies printed for archival purposes.
The Vicar has been writing by email to members of the congregation, and the content appears here.
Easter 4 – May 3rd 2020
Perhaps this saying is familiar to you:
God, grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change,
courage to change the things I can,
and wisdom to know the difference.
The prayer this is based on was composed by American theologian Reinhold Niebuhr sometime around 1932. It has been widely quoted and adapted, and turned from prose into a poetic form.
However we are feeling at the moment, heavily restricted in movement, relationships and social contact, we can remain close to God in prayer, and perhaps find some serenity in the midst of isolation and worry.
There could not be a better text for today, the fortieth day of our lock down, than the story of Noah’s Ark. It resonates deeply with our current predicament. This week’s sermon, which you can find online in the usual way, reflects on the fact that today, Saturday, is the Fortieth Day and Night of Lockdown. Our lockdown began on March 24th. That was forty days and nights ago. Which is a bit spooky really!
But notice that it didn’t suddenly end on the fortieth day. Noah’s easing out of maritime lockdown was gradual as the waters receded. The flood actually lasted 150 days. That’s five months. After forty days it stopped raining. The worst was over. But then the waters had to recede and took more than three times as long. Noah and his gang, floating on their planks of wood needed not only faith and hope, but patience. Birds were sent out, only to return empty-beaked, until eventually one dud not return. It was not until the seventh month that the ark ‘landed’ on Mount Ararat, and if you read the story carefully, we are told that the duration of the Noah family lockdown, their isolation in the Ark was around eleven months. Then, when it was all over, there was a big celebration of thanksgiving and there were sacrifices and feasting (which involved eating some of the animals, of course).
So, as we pass forty days of lockdown, with at least 110 to go in some form or another, and the prospect of it taking even eleven months or more, we give thanks for the protection, wisdom, advice and care we receive and benefit from, in so many quarters. Naturally we weep with those who weep and pray for the sick and dying, and for the protection of all. But we do so in the light of the illuminating stories from the past which remind us that God is in control, and Christ is our Good Shepherd, who brings us home, on earth and in heaven.
God, give me grace to accept with serenity the things that cannot be changed,
Courage to change the things which should be changed,
and the Wisdom to distinguish the one from the other.
Living one day at a time, enjoying one moment at a time, accepting hardship as a pathway to peace,
Taking, as Jesus did, this sinful world as it is, not as I would have it,
Trusting that you will make all things right, if I surrender to your will,
So that I may be reasonably happy in this life, and supremely happy with you forever in the next.
For you are God, Father, Son and Holy Spirit, Amen.
The Sermon is at: https://stmarymagdalene.church/sermons/
If you would like to join in with a daily prayer video for a minute or so each day, then I commend to you the ‘Daily Prayer' on the Rochester Cathedral Website, to which I shall soon start contributing. The daily link is at: https://www.rochestercathedral.org. I will be doing May 7th.
The Church of England have introduced a Telephone Service for prayer and inspiration. Called ‘Daily Hope’ it is a free phone number where you can access n listen to hymns, prayers, reflections and services. It is especially useful for those with no internet access. The no. is 0800 804 8044.
And remember, you can always ring me for a chat! 020 8363 1875.
A novel idea for our times:
It’s been suggested that we provide some form of online service going forward, and, I’m on the case. Meanwhile, it would be nice if we could involve as many folk as possible reading the readings. Could you therefore please let me know if you are willing and equipped to record your voice reading readings and able to send to Ken, eg by the Thursday of the relevant week. We will then create a sort of online readers rota, and tell you how to do it. It is, for example, really easy if you have an iphone or ipad. And probably also possible if you some other kind of inferior device make by some other company! (-: I will then create some kind of online service which can be varied each week - it will not be eucharistic for obvious reasons, but it will have readings, sermon and music. I hope! If anyone would like to record musical items, that is also possible in the same way. Do be in touch with offers and ideas. Meanwhile Jonathan and I are working on a special anthem for the choir to sing when the ’new normal’ starts occurring! (Well, he's doing all the work actually….)
VE Day – May 8th 2020 / Easter 5 – May 10th 2020
I hope the bank holiday is treating you well and you are getting some sunshine! This has become a weekly weekend missive, and now we have passed forty days and nights of lockdown, we are becoming used to being a parish church connected more virtually than physically. The fact is, it is not going to stop over might,. and it may yet be a while before we can meet again under our beloved St Mary’s roof. So we continue in this fashion, and I’m most grateful for the favourable and appreciate comments I have received. We are all indebted to Ken Cope for making it all possible online too.
Over Easter we produced liturgies and materials for the Paschal Feast. and it was accessed well beyond our parish boundaries. Now we are hoping to continue in this vein, not with ‘live-streamed service as such (though they be but all the rage!), but with pre-corded compiled acts of worship in which anyone can participate, both by listening in, and also by actually taking part, in advance, or by singing the hymns and saying the parts in bold type. Just like in Church! Try it and see what you think. It does not have to be done at 10am on Sundays, although doing it then may keep us connected in an extra dimension. With this email comes the script (the liturgy), which you can print, or follow on screen. It is also fully online with the recordings at:
You might like to have the weekly prayer circular and readings in front of you at the time (in this email).
So the idea is you can read it silently, out loud with family, or just listen to it, or listen and follow. It’s taken a bit of thought and prayer how to do this best, but now we hope to have an approach than can last us many weeks ahead, even beyond when we have moved out of the Vicarage (Which is looking like being the second half of next month). The sermon is also woven into it, or can be read or listened to separately. To some extent you create your own engagement with this, from the common and unique material we will provide each weekend. if you would like to read the readings, then please do let Ken or I now. It’s really quite easy to do on a smartphone, laptop or tablet.
From Sunday, Mo’s sermon is online in the usual place:
A new article by me for the BRF is available at: https://www.brf.org.uk
We continue to pray without ceasing for those who suffer at this time, and to give thanks and pray for our key workers. I am reminded of the words of St Teresa of Avila (1515-1582), who herself lived through challenging medical times Spain:
“Christ has no body now but yours. No hands, no feet on earth but yours. Yours are the eyes through which he looks compassion on this world. Yours are the feet with which he walks to do good. Yours are the hands through which he blesses all the world. Yours are the hands, yours are the feet, yours are the eyes, you are his body. Christ has no body now on earth but yours.”
Keep on keeping well and carry on carrying on!
Easter 6 – May 17th 2020
Another week of lockdown passes, and we now hear the London has moved from being one of the worst-infected areas of the country to the other end of the scale of suffering. We can be thankful for small mercies, with complacency or lack or realism. As with everything else we inch forward. Thank you to everyone who contributed to and commented on last week’s online worship, we are continuing with that for as long as necessary. Do connect to it at:
Also, as well or instead, the sermon at:
If you like Jazz, and perhaps are even a fan of Jools Holland, you might like to check out his version of ‘Abide with Me’, here:
The PCC are meeting online this weekend - if you are on the PCC and haven’t heard this, please do be in touch. One or two folk have dropped off the radar, perhaps do to the furlough situation, and we cannot contact them. We don’t have a lot of business, but it is important that we keep the governance of the parish in good order.
Inevitably, we are now preparing to move out of the Vicarage. This has its distinctive challenges at this time, but actually, the timescales are not displaced much. It is looking like my original installation date will still be my official start date, even if there is to be no ‘event’ for us all to attend, at this stage. By the same token, my ‘final’ Sunday at St Mary Magdalene’s would have been May 24th (next Sunday), but we cannot do anything on that date either. The likelihood is that we would actually move out in the second half of June. As far as I am concerned we are still here for you and with you until that time (which we will specify as soon as possible). The Bishop of Edmonton has kindly granted me a licence to officiate in London Diocese for another year. It will not be a smooth process, but it will enable me to continue to serve you in some way even after we have moved house. St Mary Magdalene’s and Rochester Cathedral will have an unusual and special connection!
In these times, ‘distance’ is a powerful and evocative word. It has taken on new meanings, whereby we concern ourselves with the distance between people on trains and even in a common building. ‘Social’ distance is a strange and new concept with almost Orwellian connotations. It is a tautological phrase implying distance and closeness at the same time. We all know what it means, how it translates practically, in terms of two metre gaps in queues and so forth. But it also works the other way such that ‘social distance’ also brings people who are physically distanced, into a social closeness. We have reflected on that spiritually a bit over the weeks, (and how we can be distanced from each other but close to God) but it also occurs to me that at this time we have been physically distanced from each other in a manner that does not actually distinguish between Australia and the next street; and the flip-side of this isolation and social distance is actually social closeness, which needs pays no regard to geographical distance. So let us follow our heads in relation to social distance, but let our hearts rule our social closeness. For in some sense we have become closer these weeks, socially, spiritually, emotionally. Our physical move to Rochester will mark a sad moment of physical distance begun at a particular point in time, but we will remain socially close. As everyone from Vera Lynn to the Queen have been saying, ‘we’ll meet again!’
Easter 7 – May 24th 2020
Another Bank Holiday weekend at home arrives swiftly on the tails of the last one. I do hope you can enjoy it in some way. Last week I talked about inching forward - perhaps this was ambitious and I should have used the lesser measurement of a centimetre, Brexit notwithstanding! We have been measuring some of our furniture in advance of moving it, and I have realised that sometimes one should measure in centimetres and sometimes in inches. It all depends what standard it was made to. I daresay there’s some moral message in that somehow…. We are all wonderfully made, but some of us in inches and others in centimetres. Conversion is always possible…
There has been much publicity about the legality, rightness etc of closing churches, and arguments, and predictions, have broken out across the media. A legal challenge has been ‘won’ in France apparently. We have stayed out of this debate, following the guidelines, and trying to still be the church without an open building. We miss it terribly of course, and an unforeseen consequence has been the way in which we have not, nor will not be able to mark my departure in any formal sense at this time. I think it is good not to become embroiled in the politics or shrill barracking that this issue has spawned, but to respond calmly, responsibly and with humility in a way that places the safety and health of everyone first, without resentment and looking forward always to reinstatement of something which we might recognise as normality. Yet for us, not quite uniquely, but certainly rarely, whatever we have been used to is now over for us all. I shall never be able to return to that normal modus vivendi, modus orandi that we have enjoyed and been nourished by, and when you reconvene under our beloved ceiling, you will likely not have a vicar. We are all desperately sorry about that. Everything changes. But faith, hope and love endure. And the greatest of these is love. Be assured of it.
Our ASK Force idea is well and truly in place, and thank you to everyone who has engaged with it however gently. It is mostly felt in the care and prayer we are showing for one another, by keeping together as a church family however virtually. We have gained local and some national attention through our networks, and the Borough have directly referred a few people to us, as in one sense we are seen to be working alongside some of the other charities and agencies trying to ameliorate the hardship that this situation causes to the poor, homeless and disenfranchised. Keep up the good work! Meanwhile the local Foodbank are now collecting at Oakwood Station, so anyone wishing to donate can take it straight there at any time.
As you know we have been ‘closed’ since the day after Mothering Sunday - when the church was open for private prayer and reflection. It may be that this kind of open-ness may come before formal services resume. Meanwhile we have developed ‘online’ worship, and readers are kindly stepping forward each week, which enables some sense of our own community gathered together in common praise and purpose. This week, as well as the provision of hymn tunes by Keith Beniston, (to whom we are very grateful indeed), Caroline has recorded ‘The Servant Song’, beautifully, and I have added a piano accompaniment remotely. We have also added a Lunchtime Concert to the menu - we have missed those - and there is an excellent one of which I happened to have a recording, of the Anern Trio, from a couple of years ago. Nigel Blomiley introduces it in his inimitable way.
It can be found at:
This week’s online service is at:
Mo’s sermon is on the Sermon page as always, but we have also sewn it into the body of the service to enable an experience without interruption. Many churches are saying, as we are, that their congregations have at least doubled online. Being online does of course mean that there is no need or insistence to connect at 10am on a Sunday, although we know that many do.
This week’s song that Caroline chose to sing, is a poignant one for us all, and she reminded me that we sang it at my Installation here on January 16th 2003. For me it says all the right things about shared parish ministry, and so, as this would likely have been my ‘final’ Sunday here, it is fitting to end with it too. In the intervening years, we have sung it at funerals, and many will remember it from our various pilgrimages.
We are pilgrims on a journey,
and companions on the road;
we are here to help each other
walk the mile and bear the load.
We have held the Christ light for each other, in times of mutual fear, bereavement and sickness, and we are holding it for each other at this time. Only last week we remembered the bicentenary of Florence Nightingale, and lights were lit in recognition of her pioneering spirit, but also of all those who carry the light of hope for others. Perhaps I have held the light for you, but you have held it for me too, for which I am hugely grateful.
I will hold the Christ-light for you
in the night-time of your fear;
I will hold my hand out to you,
speak the peace you long to hear.
And then comes the verse which strikes home as we are unable to have a farewell event, no tears and no hugs (sorry!). But whether we are separated by yards or miles, in Enfield or gathered at a Holy Land site:
I will weep when you are weeping;
when you laugh I’ll laugh with you;
I will share your joy and sorrow,
till we’ve seen this journey through.
A journey of 17 years is nearly through, for all of us. But it is not the end and friendship is not over. At the very least, we shall return in order to ‘leave’. So my dear friends, at this turning point, this cross-roads, we unite in the first and final verse of the song - the ending that is the beginning, as T. S Eliot might have put it - a verse that both establishes and sums up the greater service to God and each other, to which we are called.
Brother, sister, let me serve you;
let me be as Christ to you;
pray that l may have the grace to
let you be my servant too.
Words Richard M. Gillard (b. 1953) © Integrity Music, Inc.
Ad Majorem Dei Gloriam
Pentecost – May 31st
Nearly twenty years ago, just after the Millennium had inspired us in all sorts of ways, folk began to notice that over the horizon was the year 2020. Not quite palindromic, it is a double number, of promise, and of course, of vision. With eyesight so much in the news this week… I’m reminded that so many organisations began to ‘see’ that a good way of ‘looking’ forward would be to talk in terms of a ‘2020 vision’. The Diocese of London were among them, as indeed were the Worshipful Company of Cordwainers. In the early twenty-first century we began to wonder what our vision for 2020 would be, what the world would look like in 2020, and, most importantly, how organisations, churches, individuals even, could not only prepare for the year 2020, but be proactive in determining what kind of (better) world we might want or expect, and, for example whether certain diseases, attitudes injustices, etc might be changed or eradicated. Of course there have been major achievements in the last twenty years, many of which are to be celebrated and enjoyed. Have a think about what they might be. But perhaps, also wonder whether we could possibly have imagined that 2020 would be like THIS, eighteen years ago. And perhaps in doing so, there is some hollow laughter that might slip out. Globally nations were trying to say and do the right things about world debt. Now we are looking at a global debt situation which we would not have foreseen. We were anticipating major developments in medicine. There have been many, but here we are laid low by a minuscule virus, just as they were in 1918. (Our dealing with it is of course very different). I wonder if, honestly, anyone foresaw Brexit twenty years ago. Meanwhile many did foresee the expansion of the internet and mobile phones and the impact they would have on our lives, transforming them. I managed to get on the front page of the Times in 2002 and on the Today programme for writing a spoof ‘wedding liturgy’ for someone becoming ‘wedded’ to their mobile phones. Everyone laughed. Except Sue McGregor on Radio 4 who in quizzing me live didn’t seem to understand that it was a joke. I wonder where exactly, your mobile phone is right now? In your pocket or handbag I daresay.
Eighteen years ago you were looking forward (I guess), to having a new Vicar, and we were all forming 2020 visions for ourselves, trying to see clearly the road ahead. You didn’t know who was coming, or how long he would stay (back then there was no way you were going to get Dawn French as your Vicar). As I recall, folk didn’t expect me to stay very long when I did arrive. But we did and have, and are only leaving because, according to the Letters Patent I received the other day, her Majesty ‘commanding and requiring the Bishop of Rochester to ‘institute, induct and invest with all and every the rights members and appurtenances therunto belonging and to do all and singular other matters and things in anywise touching or concerning the admission institution and induction aforesaid…. (‘to the Canonry Residentiary in Our Cathedral Church of Rochester in Our County of Kent’). So much for that, it has to be admitted, rather cool letter of appointment.
Yet words cannot express or sum up the greatness of the privilege; the bountiful joy; the depth of affection, the quality of laughter, power of prayer and breadth of love we have shared and received as companions on the pilgrimage road that has woven its way around Enfield, to Israel, Egypt, Turkey, Germany, Spain, Jordan and back. We have travelled together in so many ways, literally, physically, mentally, spiritually, faithfully. We have shared in baptisms, marriages and of course, too many funerals. I will leave many friends under the hallowed turf atop Windmill Hill. We shall miss them, and you, all.
There is, as you well know, a time for everything. We could not have predicted how this present time would pan out - our twenty-twenty vision certainly became foggy as 2020 progressed, and now half-way through, we can barely see beyond the locked-down noses on our face! But it is time. Time to leave, time to arrive, time to move. Time to turn parishioners into friends without portfolio, time to promise to stay in touch - and mean it - and of course, time to commit the joyful past, and all our futures to the mercy and care of God, knowing that in all things - even if our 2020 vision is pretty useless at the moment - light and hope is coming, to illuminate paths and, bu the grace of the Holy Spirit to lead you; to lead someone to you, and for me to reassure you, as Julian of Norwich famously put it, that ‘all shall be well, and all manner of thing, well’.
For everything there is a season, and a time for every matter under heaven:
a time to be born, and a time to die;
a time to plant, and a time to pluck up what is planted;
a time to kill, and a time to heal;
a time to break down, and a time to build up;
a time to weep, and a time to laugh;
a time to mourn, and a time to dance;
a time to throw away stones, and a time to gather stones together;
a time to embrace, and a time to refrain from embracing;
a time to seek, and a time to lose;
a time to keep, and a time to throw away;
a time to tear, and a time to sew;
a time to keep silence, and a time to speak;
a time to love, and a time to hate;
a time for war, and a time for peace.
(Reflections of a Royal Philosopher)
Go well, and stay well,
From the Parish Registers
If anyone is celebrating a birthday or anniversary and wishes to take up the elements please inform the churchwardens.
Regular Weekly Events
|Sunday||8:00 am||Holy Communion|
|10:00 am||Eucharist (Second Sunday in month Family Service)|
|6:30 pm||Evensong (or other ‘special’ service)|
|Please see the Google calendar for any further information regarding Sunday Services|
|Monday||10:00 am||Mattins (BCP)|
|Tuesday||7:45-9:00 pm||Bell Ringing Practice|
|Wednesday||8:30 pm||Drama Group|
|Thursday||10:30 am||Holy Communion (BCP)|
|7:30 pm||Choir Practice|
Coffee Mornings 2020
If coffee mornings continue for 2020 here are the dates which we hope to see each other again!
July 21: June Carr
August 18: Gill & David Bird
September 15: Jackie Fish
October 20: Kate & Bob
November 17: Lilian & Colin
December 15: Rita Barker
as you all know March, April & May were all cancelled and I do not think it would be appropriate at the moment for June to take place so that is cancelled. As you know the takings from the coffee mornings are to be used eventually for a new kitchen in the Vestry and because of the virus we have potentially lost £800. I was wondering if you could manage to put say £3 per person x 4 in a pot and eventually bring it to the next morning whenever that will be. I know times are hard but we should keep God’s house in good order and this would be a wonderful sign of our love for St Mary Magdalene’s.
Many thanks for all your past support, keep safe and love to everyone,
Fellowship meetings for 2020
15 July – Bring and Share picnic lunch in our garden at 12.30 pm
August – no meeting
Please encourage friends to join us, especially when something is of special interest.
Coffee and a Concert
11.30pm – 1pm
Coffee, tea and cake available in the Choir Vestry from 11.30 am
Concert programme for 2020
June 10 – Cancelled
July 8 – Marina Ersog: Piano
August – No Concert
September 9 – Catherine Leonard: Piano
October 14 – Marion and Michael Smith: Piano and Organ
November 11 – Jonathan Newby: Piano
December 12 – Lunch Time Carol Concert