Benefice Newsletter


MAY 2020

You are the light of the world.
(Matthew 5.14)

                          AN ARTICLE FROM REV’D TIM

As I sit to put these few words to paper in mid – April, a further 3-week lock down has been announced by the Government. Yet, among all the difficulties and sadness we are currently experiencing, and we surely are, Springtime is all around us. It’s been mild, dry and with very little high wind, which has meant the blossom has been at its absolute best, stayed a long time on the trees, and now, woods are filled with blue bells at their very freshest and bluest.

Nature programmes on the TV give us a much closer look at what the birds and animals are up to at this time of year, for most, a time to build a nest, a time to find a home albeit burrow, tree house or nesting box and the TV cameras are able to take us into secret lives, where we see both the joy and also stark and at times harsh realities of the natural world.

Just now, Weddings and Baptisms, a big part of any Priest's ministry, are sadly all on hold as we wait for brighter times ahead, which will surely come. In my role, I would in normal times, have the privilege of meeting so many different people, often at pivotal points of family life and in preparing services for families, they will share things special to them, music, poetry, scripture and which are appropriately recalled at this particular turning point in their lives. Sometimes I am introduced to pieces of music I’ve never heard of, yet alone will be able to pronounce, and sometimes the thoughts and ideas take me back to my own roots and reawaken my own memories.

I was reminded recently of the poem by William Henry Davies which includes the familiar words “What is this life, if full of care, we have no time to stand and stare.” As I thought about these words, the response would seem to be for many, that perhaps we do now have the time.

Many lives are full of care just now, thankfully, care for one another and ourselves, at this testing time of dealing with all the Corona virus can throw at us, both locally and across the world. For some this is a time of great sadness having lost people they love dearly and it can be very hard to see any light in the darkness of grief. Our thoughts and prayers are with those who mourn and those struggling to recover their health.  A personal prayer is that this care of each other will continue beyond this crisis, that we will show a greater awareness of people we share our daily life with. But amongst all of these things, that we may also find time for ourselves to just stand, stare and give thanks  for God’s natural world, which has remained a constant in the  most distressing of times. With very best wishes and blessings to you all, Rev’d Tim Wood




At Easter in Hamstead, Hallam and family watched the  3 hour epic which you may know already? The Gospel of John which follows the Gospel word for word and is very powerful.


 As part of my church warden’s twice weekly check of the locked church I decide to make one of these checks at 8pm on a Thursday which allows me to ring one or both bells to support the NHS and Key Workers. (Johnny Stevenson)

        Any other ways of showing support in the benefice?                     


 Tim Gwyn Jones

 We have the sad news of Tim Gwyn Jones’ death earlier this month. Tim was a great supporter of St Mary’s and often allowed Hamstead Park to be used for church related events. We remembered him over the past weekend  as many parishioners went individually to help tidy the churchyard. May he rest in peace and rise in glory.(Hallam Goad)




Whilst waiting in an orderly queue before going into a shop last week I studied my shopping list and spoke with my fellow shoppers and thought how fortunate I am.  I could hear bird song, feel a soft breeze on my face, see clear blue sky and smell the fresh West Berkshire air.

That evening I spoke on the telephone with my cousin who lives in West London.  He and his dear wife are having to isolate.  They have a daughter-in-law at one of the London key hospitals and their daughter is a Health Visitor. I went to bed that night thinking how blessed I am to be in ‘my castle’, with green space about me.  I am told to isolate, but I do think I could do more in these challenging times. …..Roger Pope


 For most of us Coronavirus has been no more than a major inconvenience.  It has taken from us things we greatly valued - the Church Festivals, the human contact, the walks in the bluebell woods and the start of the Cricket Season.  It has for those, including our relatives, living in the cities been a devastating and tragic event - the constant wailing of sirens, the fear that any journey outside might lead to the catching of the virus and the death of friends and workmates, with the constant worry of who will be the next victim.

For most of us we know of no one who has died.  We seldom hear sirens.  We hear instead the birds singing in our gardens, now bursting into life, and we have enjoyed the glorious spring weather.  Above all we seem, as a community, to have drawn closer together.  We don’t have the groups of the larger villages but we have grown together by keeping in touch - we chat on the phone and we ensure that the needs of all are noted and, where possible, met.  We are learning new ways of worshipping and of sharing the thoughts of people from across the Benefice.  None of this would have been possible without the leadership of the Ministry Team.  We have come to value the Beacon even more as it keeps us in touch with events throughout the Benefice.

Above all we share the hope that once this is all over the Parishes and the Benefice can emerge even stronger than before.


West Berkshire primary school aiming for Pearson National Teaching Award


Small primary school on silver list and aiming for gold


by John Herring

of the Newbury Weekly News

& published here by kind permission of the Newbury Weekly News.

 Enborne Primary School is in the running to being named primary school of the year.It is aiming to win an education ‘Oscar’ at this year’s Pearson National Teaching Awards.Selected from thousands of nominations, the small West Berkshire school is one of six on the shortlist for a Silver Award for Primary School of the Year – and if successful will go on to compete for one of 14 national Gold Awards. The Gold Awards, known as the ‘Oscars’ of the educational world, are announced at a ceremony later in the year broadcast on the BBC. Enborne Primary School, which has 70 pupils on its roll, was nominated for the transformation it has been through in recent years. It was rated as requiring improvement by Ofsted in 2016, but is now judged as outstanding and prioritises pastoral care and the emotional wellbeing of its pupils. Chairwoman of governors Claire Smith said: “We’re absolutely thrilled that our wonderful school has been recognised in this way. We have fantastic school leaders, great teachers and the children at Enborne have such a rich experience of school life. Even during these recent school closures, there’s been a real sense of community and support among Enborne pupils. We look forward to highlighting all this for the Pearson Award judges after Easter.” Executive headteacher Catherine Morley said: “I am delighted that Enborne has been shortlisted for such a prestigious award. I’m so proud of the whole team; all our staff and governors, and our wonderful children. I’m grateful for the help and guidance we received during the challenges we faced. It’s a joy to be able to recognise and celebrate exceptional commitment and achievement at this time.” The Pearson National Teaching Awards is an annual celebration of exceptional teachers, founded in 1998 by Lord David Puttnam to recognise the life-changing impact an inspirational teacher can have on the lives of the young people. The nomination follows Enborne CE Primary School being ranked as one of the top primary state schools in England, according to Department for Education’s 2019 tables.                                                         


    Update on Kintbury C19 Community Response

The process in Kintbury is now working pretty smoothly.  It took a while to set up the various different elements of the system, and to establish appropriate and necessary contacts; unfortunately the planned leaflet drop throughout the village was interrupted by the lockdown, so that not every household received the information immediately.  However, grapevines and words of many mouths are still remarkably effective means of communication, even in an age of technology and social media.

We now have two overlapping teams of volunteers: Pauline is coordinating a group who are checking the ongoing wellbeing of vulnerable, isolated, or elderly people and offering a friendly chat where appropriate; some of these volunteers themselves fall within the vulnerable group, but are still keen to play their part.  Richard’s team handle requests for shopping and also prescription collection.  There is, of course, some crossover between these groups and roles, which is good. I am really grateful to Richard and Pauline for the hard work that has gone into sorting these teams initially, and the continuing task of linking the appropriate volunteer to each request for support.

We have worked with Kintbury St. Mary's School and the Corner Stores to distribute fruit’n’veg boxes following a generous donation; with the Volunteer Group to coordinate our responses; with the Surgery who pass on requests for assistance as necessary, and with the West Berks Community Hub. We have had an amazing response from our local people; I’ve had some lovely conversations with people I have never encountered before, and we hope that some of the links being created in this strange situation will last beyond lockdown.

At the time of writing, we are really pleased to be able to report that NoTrees and Inglewood have so far remained free of the coronavirus - please God that will continue to be the case.

May God bless us all in these extraordinary times and challenges. Jenny


"When one is in very great pain and fear, it is extremely difficult to pray coherently, and I could only raise my mind in anguish to God and ask for strength to hold on."  These are the words of Dr Sheila Cassidy, after being imprisoned and tortured in Chile, during the infamous Pinochet regime in the 70s.


A devout Catholic (at that time) she answered the door one evening to a friend – a local priest – asking her to treat a man with bullet wounds.  She did not ask for any details – she was not given any details – but gave the man the treatment he needed.


Two weeks later she was arrested and interrogated; the Chilean secret police wanted details of the people involved as the man she had cared for was a well-known political fugitive.  At first she lied, to protect her friends, but under electric shock torture, to her own bitter regrets, she supplied the information they were seeking.


Her first book, “Audacity to Believe”, written within two years of these events, describes her initial responses to her experiences.  She has continued to explore their effects on her life and faith, in her subsequent writings – autobiographical, reflective and challenging.


The first of her books which I read, many years ago, was “Good Friday People” – a collection of sketches of ‘a motley group of saints and sinners mysteriously called to share the suffering of Christ’ – written as a type of Stations of the Cross.  I couldn’t find my copy – maybe I lent it, maybe I only borrowed it in the first place – but I ordered a replacement just in time for my own Holy Week reading this extraordinary year.


Sheila Cassidy is one of my 20th Century heroes – I shall try to explore more of her work during the next few months of lockdown. (Jenny)


Please tell us if you have an inspirational person you wish to share with us. Ed


I have set my rainbow in the clouds, and it will be the sign of the covenant between  

                                                   me and the earth. Genesis 9:v13

We’re seeing them everywhere – in windows, on railings, on line – people sharing Hope with each other and offering a visible sign of support, love and gratitude to all the workers in the NHS.

I went into Kintbury St Mary’s School on the Friday afternoon after it had been announced on the Wednesday that schools were to close indefinitely.  I wanted to spend that time with the staff, with the children, and was very aware that it could be the final day in Primary Education for the pupils in Y6.  So I visited all the classes, then the Headteacher invited me to lead perhaps the last Act of Worship for the school year.  Many of the children had been drawing and colouring rainbows, to take home and also to put on the school notice board and railings.  They brought them in with them, and explained to me that they stood for Hope (one of the 3 Values the children chose for the school Vision); I reminded them of the Rainbow in the story of Noah: God’s promise to his World after months of destruction:  “Whenever I bring clouds over the earth and the rainbow appears in the clouds, I will remember my covenant between me and you and all living creatures of every kind.”

And we know that God keeps his promises.Jenny

My second film choice is again by Carl Dreyer but it is altogether very different type of film ( it is silent for one thing) to Ordet . The critic Roger Ebert describes it as well as any observer. 

You cannot know the history of silent film unless you know the face of Renee Maria Falconetti. In a medium without words, where the filmmakers believed that the camera captured the essence of characters through their faces, to see Falconetti in Dreyer's "The Passion of Joan of Arc” (1928) is to look into eyes that will never leave you.

Falconetti (as she is always called) made only this single movie. "It may be the finest performance ever recorded on film,” wrote Pauline Kael. She was an actress in Paris when she was seen on the stage of a little boulevard theater by Carl Theodor Dreyer(1889-1968), the Dane who was one of the greatest early directors. It was a light comedy, he recalled, but there was something in her face that struck him: "There was a soul behind that facade.” He did screen tests without makeup, and found what he sought, a woman who embodied simplicity, character and suffering.

Dreyer had been given a large budget and a screenplay by his French producers, but he threw out the screenplay and turned instead to the transcripts of Joan's trial. They told the story that has become a legend: of how a simple country maid from Orleans, dressed as a boy, led the French troops in their defeat of the British occupation forces. How she was captured by French loyal to the British and brought before a church court, where her belief that she had been inspired by heavenly visions led to charges of heresy. There were 29 cross-examinations, combined with torture, before Joan was burned at the stake in 1431. Dreyer combined them into one inquisition, in which the judges, their faces twisted with their fear of her courage, loomed over her with shouts and accusations.

Nick  Stewart



”Two things are infinite, the universe and human stupidity,

and I'm not sure about the universe



Alcuin of York is celebrated on  20th May and was subject of a radio programme in January. He promoted education, wrote poetry and many letters, many of which survive. Born in or around York he spent most of his life in Northumbria until invited to the court of Charlemagne in Aachen. Here he brought Anglo Saxon humanism and  encouraged  a broad liberal education. He left the court to become Abbot of Tours where he died in 804. Alcuin was described by one of the biographers of Charlemagne as "the most learned man to be found anywhere". He was a writer, a teacher, a biblical scholar and a liturgist. He gave the medieval Church its standard Bible text, and shaped, much of its liturgy.  Around the year 800 Alcuin installed the first church organ in England.
 (Note from Chris when I asked why they did not catch on:They were all awful until around 1300!! Even then, largest organs needed 30 people to pump and few players had the strength to press the keys against the wind pressure!!  They only really caught on when they became cheaper and better than live musicians.)


We are told that during this 'lockdown' people are turning to philosophy. Here are some quotes from Boethius (477-526AD) “ Consolation of Philosophy”(written in prison)

So dry your tears. Fortune has not yet turned her hatred against all your blessings. The storm has not yet broken upon you with too much violence. Your anchors are holding firm and they permit you both comfort in the present, and hope in the future .

Balance out the good things and the bad that have happened in your life and you will have to acknowledge that you are still way ahead. You are unhappy because you have lost those things in which you took pleasure? But you can also take comfort in the likelihood that what is now making you miserable will also pass away.”

Nothing is miserable unless you think it so; and on the other hand, nothing brings happiness unless you are content with it.” 


 A Poem from the best selling Alan Titchmarsh book 'Marigolds,Myrtles & Moles'

A Gardener's Hymn

Eternal Father, cure my doubts

and keep the aphids off my sprouts.

Let weevil, codling moth and flea

 eat someone else's mange-tout-pea.

Oh, hear me when I shout and cry and send a cure for carrot fly.


Make all my courgettes long and fat

and neutralise my neighbour's cat.

Let not my spuds fall prey to blight

Nor rosebuds vanish in the night.

O hear us when we call to thee: for those who garden on TV


In a TV interview Alan said that his faith was the root of his being


Contacts: Priest-in-charge: Rev Mark Wilson, 'phone: (01488) 491105; Office: Deborah at & for Beacon by email. Beacon items: Penny at ian_fletcher43@btinternet or Phil at or ‘phone (01488) 658767.