Thoughts from our Priest in Charge and Ministry Team

Rev Mark Wilson - A farewell to Walbury Beacon Benefice

Since it’s airing 37 years ago in February 1983, the series finale of the award-winning show M*A*S*H entitled “Goodbye, Farewell and Amen”, remains the single most watched episode and TV event of all time with more than 125 million viewers.  Set during the Korean War, M*A*S*H followed the daily exploits of the 4077th Mobile Army Surgical Hospital unit located 3 miles from the front lines of the war zone. Amid the horrors of war-wounded soldiers, sniper bullets, bombs and incompetent Army guidelines-the doctors and nurses relied on humour, hijinks and hearts of compassion to keep sane.  And through their common experience, the members of the 4007th became a close-knit family and community.

In the episode “Goodbye, Farewell and Amen,” the community finally receives some long- awaited good news-war is over and they can return home to their families and friends!  It is a cause for joyful celebration and sad goodbyes. The doctors and nurses soon realize that “going home” means their current relationships will end as they depart for various destinations in the States. 

And who can blame them for feeling and acting this way?  Many of us, me included, can identify with their anxiety, pain, sadness and reluctance toward saying the two words that acknowledge the end of a particular relationship in a certain setting. Saying “good-bye” to a friend or mentor, or to a Benefice can be extremely difficult-once the words are spoken, a person then has to learn how to live without the other in their daily midst. That type of dramatic change can be scary.

The twelve disciples likely experienced some fear and anxiety when Jesus announced a huge change while having dinner with them in an upper room.  I imagine there were some shocked faces, a few tears and twittering hands among the disciples as they listened to their teacher talk of betrayal, arrest and crucifixion.  Jesus doesn’t let them dwell long in their fear of what will happen to them and he assures the disciples that they will not be abandoned:

“When the Spirit of truth comes, (says Jesus) the Spirit will guide you into all the truth; for the Spirit will not speak on its own, but will speak whatever it hears, and the Spirit will declare to you the things that are to come.”

While Jesus’ words of assurance and promise of the coming Spirit may not make a departure less difficult, the words do give hope in the midst of change. Jesus’ words lift the heavy weight of finality that is often felt when someone says “good-bye.”And the presence of the Spirit allows time for both parties who depart from one another to reflect on the sacredness of that moment of change.

Remember also a similar parting message by the Apostle Paul to the church in Thessalonica:

“we appeal to you, brothers and sisters,* to respect those who labour among you, and have charge of you in the Lord and admonish you; esteem them very highly in love because of their work. Be at peace among yourselves. And we urge you, beloved, to admonish the idlers, encourage the faint-hearted, help the weak, be patient with all of them. See that none of you repays evil for evil, but always seek to do good to one another and to all. Rejoice always, pray without ceasing, give thanks in all circumstances; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you. 

These are my final words to you all.

May God Bless you and Farewell.


Rev Mark Wilson - 40 Years in Ministry

As most of you will be aware I celebrated forty years of ordination on the 6th July. This was a milestone in my life as a priest. Although the past eighteen months have not been easy for me with various issues within the Benefice and of course latterly Covid 19 and the lockdown, it remained my goal to work towards a cohesive Benefice and we have made some progress along that road.

However, after 40 years in Ministry an opportunity has arisen for me to take early retirement, and in consultation with Bishop Olivia I have decided to pursue this, and so I will be leaving Walbury Beacon Benefice on 26th September 2020.

Deborah and I have come to regard West Berkshire as our ‘Special place’ and indeed we will continue to live just outside the Benefice boundary at Stockcross. More importantly we have made many friends in the Benefice over the past three years and we will continue to have a great interest in the life of the Benefice as you move on to the next phase of your Christian Pilgrimage.

I leave you in the hands of a very capable Ministry Team and Bishop Olivia has assured me that both Deanery and Diocese will continue to support you as you move forward.

There is little more for me to say. Except this. Life after the current crisis will probably never be as it was before or perhaps as most would want it to be. The world has changed, our country has changed, our communities have changed and we as individuals have changed. From a Parish perspective I would ask all of you to be open to new ways of doing things, new ways of being disciples of Christ, new ways of being and of bringing the Good News of Jesus Christ to our communities and to the wider world. The heart of the Gospel for me has always been LOVE. Please continue to find fresh ways to express that love to each other.

May the love and joy and peace of the Risen Christ be with you all.

With thanks and God’s richest Blessing to you all.


Rev Mark Wilson

Reflections on the Pandemic

All our lives have been affected in so many ways by this coronavirus pandemic. Trying to follow public policy toward mitigation of this dreaded illness has turned our lives upside down. We have been struggling to find ways to tolerate stay at home orders. To learn new routines within our social isolation. And above all, our stress and anxieties are peaked by the fear of contracting coronavirus as we see each day the numbers of confirmed positive cases and deaths from COVID-19. Our sorrows run especially deep as we experience the reality of death or the struggling for survival of friends or family members as a result of this disease. We see many around us, if not even ourselves, who have lost jobs. Jobs that have sustained them and their families just disappeared literally overnight as the economy had to shut down in order to curtail the spread of the virus. And furthering these emotions, people of faith are experiencing a great suffering of their spirit through the ongoing inability to worship as a church community.

We see and experience so much suffering on many levels for so many people, and we pray prayers of thanksgiving if we have been spared from this illness and the devasting turbulent side effects from it. And through this experience we have come to realize a deep sense of gratitude for those who are continuing the frontline battle against this disease. Those doctors and nurses, all hospital workers, who are putting their lives on the line to save others. And for all those who continue to leave their homes each day, endangering their own health, to keep us fed and sustained with life essential things. Those who work in our shops and supermarkets, delivery drivers, postal workers, truck drivers, food service and supply warehouse workers, all doing their part to help us endure and survive within our new isolated realities.

And, during the course of all of this, we have witnessed a tremendous rise in charitable acts and volunteerism within our communities. Everything from making protective masks, preparing food for hospital and nursing home workers, to fund raising for many people who need help due to the collateral damage being done by COVID-19.  

Our living sense of compassion can and must be enhanced by the feelings we are experiencing these days. As a people of faith, we can and must emerge from this pandemic more empathetic than ever to the reality of loneliness that so many are experiencing each day throughout their twilight years. What we now feel must serve as the spark needed to light the flame of desire to do more to be present to those among us who suffer the inability to move beyond their homes or their nursing home rooms. To create in us a burning desire to visit the housebound, the residents of nursing homes, and those whose physical disabilities cause them to remain virtual prisoners within their homes, isolated in so many ways from the world around them.  

We can and must be motivated by our own awareness of the terrible feelings of isolation and loneliness now known first-hand. And let us be moved into action as we recall in sacred Scripture John 10:10 which tells us that “I (Christ) came so that they might have life and have it more abundantly.” Let us not allow anyone among us to live short of that abundance while in our midst. Let’s be sure to bring life to all, and bring it to the fullest.

With every blessing,



Rev Tim Wood writes

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 Priests 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, Associate Priest to Walbury Beacon Benefice 

An EASTER message - Revd Tim Wood

Into your hands

Can you remember being that small child who climbs too far up the wall or too high up the climbing frame in the playground. Suddenly you become aware of how high you have climbed, realise your insecurity and call for help. An adult arrives with arms outstretched, encouraging you to jump or fall into their hands,  and with some helpful words and gestures you let go and fall into the safety of the hands below.

In Psalm 31 the Psalmist expresses his trust and confidence in God with words such as rock and fortress, that he places his trust into God’s hands. He recognises a trust for life, a trust in times of distress and a trust in the face of death.

Those same words are on Jesus’ lips in Luke 23 vs 46. They have a slightly different and deeper meaning. What for the Psalmist had been a cry of deliverance from death becomes, for Jesus a cry of confidence in the Father’s love. It was very much a cry of assurance, letting go into the Father’s hands.

As I write, the Government have delivered new guidance in relation to the Corona virus, advice aimed at protecting us and helping each of us in turn to protect others. God calls us to live out our lives in such a way that we are living out the kingdom of God, Bringing something of the kingdom of God to others by the way we are.

I wonder if you know people in our community who may be lacking a bit of support just now and therefore, if they have to self isolate may need a bit of help. If so, please use the slip, link here, either with your contact details or mine / Rev’d Mark’s and pop it through their door. This will mean  they have someone they can turn to if they are in a spot of bother …. Or become over concerned and wonder where to turn.

If blessed with our faith, we can remain positive even when things are not going well, if we can come alongside others and provide encouragement in their times of adversity, then dare I say that a glimpse of Christ may just be visible…… very importantly … not simply to us.

For us stress and distress come in many forms, pressure of study, to succeed, in times of illness, lack of money, may be somewhere to live or to work. Psalm 31 encourages us to hold firmly onto what we know of God, and to allow him to hold onto us. Not in resignation or despair but because we know that, in and Through Christ, whatever may happen, we are secure.

Whether or not we are able to share the following words in worship together remains to be seen, but I share them with you now.

Jesus Christ is risen – he is risen indeed – Alleluia!

With very best wishes for Easter.


Contact details:

Priest in Charge - Revd Mark Wilson -01488491105/07935550838

Revd Tim Wood 01488 669261/ 07927 352847

WBB Office: Deborah Wilson Email:

Jenny Veasey writes:

Refreshment Sunday – what a lovely thought! In our hectic 21st Century lives, I can think of a number of people, including myself, who could do with at least one of those every week – if not more.  So it is unexpected to learn that the name, and the concept, pre-date us by several hundred years.

Laetere Sunday (a Latin word meaning “rejoice”) is the 4th Sunday in the Church season of Lent – the six(ish) weeks which lead up to, and prepare us for, the great events of Easter.  Lent: traditionally a period of great solemnity – fasting, no meat, fish only on Fridays, repentance & confession – with no decorations in churches and altars (and indeed priests) draped in sombre purple.  But six weeks seemed like a long, long time to keep this up, so there was a little island of relief – of Refreshment – in the middle, when the rules were relaxed, the church colours were changed to pink and everyone rejoiced, albeit briefly.  Another name for the day, therefore, is Rose Sunday – reflecting that change of Church colour.

It was a Sunday when, even in Protestant churches, the Virgin Mary – mother of Jesus – was remembered – especially relevant for us, here in Walbury Beacon, where we have two churches, Kintbury and Hamstead Marshall, dedicated to “St Mary the Virgin”.

For some churches it was a time to reflect on their association with the Mother Church in Jerusalem – the city where the Christian Church was first established at and after Pentecost.

It became a Sunday when wealthy families would make an effort to travel to their local “Mother Church” – usually a minster, or the cathedral – instead of attending their parish church.  And as “the family” was away from home, their servants had a day off; they would use it to walk home to visit their own families, often picking flowers on the way, as a gift for their mothers.  If their employers were generous, they might even have been allowed to bake a traditional “Simnel Cake” to take home with them; these are often decorated with eleven marzipan balls – the apostles minus Judas Iscariot.

Thus it became a day for celebrating all these different aspects of motherhood – “Mothering Sunday” – not just “Mothers’ Day”.  The date varies from year to year because the date of Easter varies according to the Festival of Passover and the lunar calendar – don’t ask – and therefore the dates of Lent vary.  This year Mothering Sunday is Sunday 22nd March – 3 weeks before Easter Day on 12th April.

Mothers’ Day is a great invention for which we must thank the Americans (and maybe the greetings card industry?).  And Fathers’ Day.  And Grandparents’ Day.  Is there a Great-Aunts’ Day? – as a devoted great-aunt myself, I think there should be.  Perhaps I will invent it. 

But Mothering Sunday, Refreshment Sunday, Rose Sunday is a whole lot more than Mothers’ Day: so let’s enjoy both occasions – any excuse to “laetere” – rejoice!



Revd Mark Wilson

Dear Friends,

The late Archbishop Anthony Bloom of the Russian Orthodox Church told the story of a woman who came to see him and said, “I have been praying all my life but I have never experienced God. What should I do?” He advised her to go home and tidy her room and sit still for twenty minutes. “And whatever you do, he warned her, “Don`t pray”.  So, she went home and tidied her room and sat still. Curiously, for the first time in a long time she discovered that she had time to look at her room and appreciate it and notice the colours and the items in front of her. She began to notice the ticking of her clock. The silence grew deeper and she felt herself slipping into prayer but she knew this was the one thing she wasn`t allowed to do. So, she took out her knitting and what with the ticking of the clock and the clicking of her needles the silence grew more profound until at the heart of the silence she became aware of a presence….

What Archbishop Bloom`s advice teaches us is how much what we call faith begins with `awareness` or what we sometimes call `contemplation`. People sometimes think this means making the mind blank, closing our eyes and shutting out the world to `contemplate our navel`. But on the contrary, contemplation means opening our eyes, becoming aware of the world and it`s all too often hidden depths. Someone called it, `a long loving look at the real`.

This contemplative spirit, it seems to me, is a pretty indispensable gateway to encounter with God. It`s not so much a matter of striving to conjure up religious experience but becoming present. Praying, as that woman discovered, is much more like `paying attention`.

In one of my favourite Gospel stories Jesus asked a blind beggar called Bartimaeus what he wanted. He replied, “I want to see again” (Mark 10.51). In one sense this is a statement of the obvious and yet it has a deeper significance because it`s the plea of someone who had lost his way, not just physically but who couldn`t see where his life was going. Pointedly, on being healed Bartimaeus got up and followed Jesus `on the way`.

So, in praying we take Archbishop Bloom`s advice and put ourselves in a place where we can pay attention to the world around us. With Bartimaeus we ask to receive the sight we need to live more fully and deeply, rather than stumble blindly through each day. Michael Paul Gallagher SJ says that to pray is “To relax into the reality of being loved by God… and rising to the realism of loving like Christ”.

 Every Blessing.



Revd Tim Wood

It’s that time of year when another (at times annoying) favourite question comes to many people’s lips, “Have you made any New Year resolutions?”

Personally, I haven’t. I tend to deal with things in small bites day by day.  I’m very comfortable standing by “So do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will bring enough troubles of its own, todays trouble is enough for today.” Matthew 6:34.

Travelling between Churches, I heard a religious commentator answering the same question and he said that rather than make resolutions, he sets goals. Unfortunately, I got to my next service before I heard him explain the difference. If your resolution were to lose a stone in weight, isn’t that also a goal I ask myself? If you know the difference, do please tell me sometime.

I think January is an odd time to make resolutions anyway. We’ve had many dark, gloomy damp days, which can affect our way of thinking. Much better I say to think about these things in springtime, with lengthening days and new life all around us. Any resolution will surely have a much more positive feel. Get the caravan kitted out for your first trip this year – now there’s a heart-warming thought.

It all set me thinking whether the great names in the Bible made resolutions and set goals? Moses certainly had a challenge on his hands, leading his people to the promised land. Jesus set the disciples the challenge to go and make disciples of all nations. Whilst goals of sorts, they are shared with others who take on areas of responsibility and lighten the load.

Resolutions, goals vision, whichever term you wish to use, all look forward positively to the future. As a Church, its right that we do the same, to do otherwise is to risk standing still. A couple of quotes to help us with these things …. From Michelangelo: “The greatest danger for most of us is not that our aim is too high, and we miss it,  but that it is too low and we reach it”

And from St Catherine of Sienna and one of my personal favourites: “Be what God meant you to be and you will set the world on fire”

Above all else, on the other side of much festivity and celebration,  I wish you all a very happy and healthy 2020 and may your vision be Holy Spirit inspired. 

With very best wishes, Rev’d Tim


Jenny Veasey

Advent – the Season of Preparation, the Season of Waiting . . .

We have just acquired an Advent ring for Kintbury School to use during their assemblies in December.  The children will help to create an Advent wreath, decorated with greenery and four candles, one to be lit each week of Advent. 

As I was preparing some background information for them on this, checking my facts with my memory, the Church of England website with hearsay, it caused me to pause, and think about its meaning – which is, of course, the whole point of it.

The first candle, the candle of Hope, is dedicated to the Patriarchs – a word which is always a bit of a mouthful for Primary School children.  These are the ancient Biblical figures of Abraham, Isaac and others – the “fathers” of the Jewish race and religion whose covenant with God was part of His long-term plan to bring hope to humanity – and aren’t we just in sore need of that right now?  At the start of the New Testament, Joseph’s ancestry is traced right the way back, through King David of Bethlehem, to these Patriarchal figures, explaining the need for that long and well-known journey to David’s City to be registered for the Roman tax system.

The second candle, Peace, recalls the Prophets, more Old Testament characters whose role was not just to look forward to the future coming of the Messiah, but also to keep recalling the Jews to the covenant made on their behalf by Abraham, and the special part they had to play in bringing that Messiah into the world for all nations.

The third candle – Joy – is lit on what used to be called “Gaudete (rejoice) Sunday” – when some of the rules about fasting during Advent were relaxed for a day.  This candle belongs to John the Baptist; I think we tend to think of John as a rather way-out figure in the New Testament, living in the wilderness, eating strange food, wearing strange clothes and apparently always up to his waist in the River Jordan.  Maybe we forget that he was Jesus’ cousin, older than him by just a few months, but nevertheless, entering the world before the Messiah – and therefore able to claim a role as the last “Old” Testament prophet, as well as the first in the New Testament.

The last of the four represents Love – and is Mary’s candle.  That speaks, I think, for itself.

There is often a separate, white candle reserved for lighting on Christmas Day – when all these elements of Hope, Peace, Joy and Love unite Past, Present and Future in the Light of Christ as we celebrate once again His coming among us.

Wow - will I be able to convey all that to the children at Kintbury St Mary’s School in four or five assemblies? – well, probably not.  But I’ll have a jolly good try – and I know that they will listen with their usual attentiveness and maybe we’ll meet somewhere in the middle!

So I wish us all a Hopeful, Peaceful, Joyful Advent followed by a Christmas and New Year filled with Love and Light.  And turkey . . . .

Jenny Veasey



Revd Mark Wilson

Dear Friends,

A few years ago while living in Portugal I found myself unable to sleep on a particularly hot night. When this happens I try to read. The Chaplaincy House had a good collection of novels and I was reading Julian Fellowes’ book ‘Past Imperfect’ and found myself musing on something I’d read earlier in the day. The main character spoke of how, as he got older, there was an increasing crowd of friends and family who had died but who in a strange way came alive to him when he remembered them and recalled their voices. In a change from counting sheep I ended up trying to count the number of people who I have known on first name terms over my now almost 40 years of ministry who have died. I know this was a rather peculiar activity but, as it turned out, it was quite effective. I got to 250 souls before succumbing to sleep. It is extraordinary to think of the scale of the count, but such is the reality for clergy I suppose. As I counted the departed I often recalled their voices as well as their faces. So often now when someone dies we have recordings of their voices or perhaps videos of them. I am sure this can be a great help for the bereaved. Modern technology has also thrown up some strange occurrences in that Facebook has many members who are long since departed. It’s a lesson to us all that so often, once something is on the internet it is there forever. Death is a subject that many wish to avoid for obvious reasons yet in November it is unavoidable, at least in church life. We of course celebrate All Saints Day, followed by All Souls, where we gather to remember all those we love but see no longer. This is followed on the second Sunday of the month by Remembrance Sunday with Armistice Day on the 11th. Some might think this all a bit miserable, especially as the shops will already be filled with Christmas wares. However, to my mind, death is so much a part of life that it is healthy to face the reality of it, to acknowledge the pain it brings and to take the time and space to remember those who have gone. The All Souls service on 3rd November at 2 pm in Kintbury is one such occasion and I warmly commend it to anyone going through the darkness of bereavement at this time. This year Deborah and I had the great pleasure of visiting Blenheim Palace. In the library there is a very fine pipe organ which has the following inscription from the 8th Duke of Marlborough: ‘In memory of happy days we leave thy voice to speak within these walls in years to come when ours are still.’ I have always been struck by the Duke’s notion of leaving that wonderful instrument behind for the benefit of those who would come after his death. Throughout the years of Christian history there have been men and women of vision and courage whose witness and example continue to speak to us. We call them 'Saints' and rightly celebrate their legacy on All Saints Day. However, the Bible says that all Christians are saints and so I am left pondering what our legacies might be. What are we doing now in Christ’s service and what will we leave behind when our voices are stilled? It is a sobering thought and one that should prompt all Christians to reflect both on the quality of their service and commitment to our Lord. As I remembered those 250 souls in the early hours of a very hot August morning, I recalled faces and voices of many saints whose example I still find inspiring. It is now our turn to make our mark for Christ and to do the very best we can to share His love with a world in so much need of it. Every Christian has a part to play. One day we shall just be a face and voice in someone’s memory. What will they say of us?

With best wishes,


Revd Tim Wood - Some Harvest Musings

I made the comment recently that you always know when Autumn is here as our Church conversations turn to that of Harvest and we are in that place in our calendar’s once more.

Harvest can mean many things to many people from climbing coconut trees in the Caribbean, to being ankle deep in water in the rice fields of China, to parched crops in parts of Africa and elsewhere, those destroyed by flood, wind and fire.

In England, our calmer weather systems generally bring a more reliable harvest time, although frosts of course can affect the fruit harvest and lack of rain the yield of many crops. On the allotment and garden vegetable patch, much is gathered in, although main crop potatoes may still be in the ground and sprouts still have some way to go before being ready for the table at Christmas. Runner beans are just about at an end ( endless watering can trips too!!) ,  with some bagged up in the freezer to enjoy later on. It’s black berrying time, with red fingers and scratched arms to prove it, but the apple and blackberry crumbles will make it all worthwhile. Jam making is in full swing, onions laid out to dry.

The wonderful view from the top of Combe hill is a great vantage point to watch the dust clouds from the corn fields and to pick up the smell in the air, as the combine makes its way up and down the field, sometimes obscuring the view on the roads. Animals and insects who had enjoyed a safe haven for a few months were sent in all directions, with some of what we called ‘harvest ‘ spiders , making their way indoors, with much shrieking when they were spotted.  I well remember from my time in Kent, the strong aroma in the hop kilns, not one that I personally liked and also the bedding of those minding the kiln fires 24 hours a day as the hops dried, literally turning green along with anything else at close quarters.

Despite advances in mechanised farming, many hands still get involved, with long hours being worked to pick at the right time and to beat any change in the weather. As our population increases, we look to greater efficiencies in our farming and to an extent are reliant on imported goods. Despite the apparent abundance of our Country, some still go hungry here and our foodbanks remain necessary.

In Exodus, chapter 23 vs 16 we would read, “You shall observe the festival of gathering at the end of the year when you gather from the field the fruits of your labour”.

In October then, we quite rightly come together to celebrate at our Harvest festivals. We continue to pray for a much greater fairness in shares for all in our World and we can each play our part in the continued provision to those less fortunate, through our generosity of giving, both locally and further afield.

Jenny Veasey - September 2019

It is often interesting to look through the Church “calendar” for the month, to see which important (historic or legendary) figures from the past will be remembered and celebrated during the forthcoming weeks.  Doing some research as part of a module on Church History & Doctrine a couple of years ago, I was amused to discover that at one point during the Middle Ages, the list of saints who needed to have special remembrances had grown so extensive, and the monks were finding it took so long to pray their way through it each day, that they were running out of time to carry out their other regular tasks around the monasteries – or maybe that seemed like an absolutely unassailable excuse . . . . You’ll be glad to know that the list was subsequently extensively pruned.

So, whose name appears in September?  Still quite a few, but three which I found worthy of note – and of a diversity which reflects our rich Christian heritage:
St Matthew (21/09) – about whom we know absolutely nothing for sure – whose name is given to the first book in the New Testament – the “Gospel according to St Matthew”.  He gives us the story of the Wise Men, and a version of the Lord’s Prayer; he is usually thought to have been Jewish, as there is a lot of emphasis throughout his gospel on demonstrating the ways in which Jesus fulfils the long-held expectations of the Jews for the promised Messiah;
St Michael and All Angels (29/09) – the greatest of the archangels (although not the one whose name we tend to hear most frequently) , the others being Gabriel, Rafael and Uriel.  He is credited with defeating Satan and casting him out of heaven; according to British folklore, when he (Satan) fell, he landed in a prickly blackberry bush and cursed the fruit – so eat it after 29/09 at your peril . . . St Michael has flowers, pies, clothing, academic terms, fairs – and two of our benefice churches – named after him;
and now my personal favourite:
Hildegard of Bingen (17/09) – I could write a whole article about Hildegard, (perhaps I will sometime), and still not do her justice.  She was a truly remarkable woman and is one of my all-time heroes.  She was born at the end of the 11th Century – not a time when women had many opportunities open to them – and entered a religious order as a child; a child, moreover, who was already seeing visions.  She was elected as magistra, (leader) aged 36, and went on to found her own convent (against the wishes of the Abbot); during her long life she travelled extensively and independently on several preaching tours (very unusual for a female at that time); her advice was sought by princes and popes; she composed wonderful music which has survived into our times; she was a prolific and wide-ranging writer of many theological works, of historically and scientifically significant medicinal textbooks, and of the earliest known musical morality play.  She supervised, personally, the illustration, presentation and production of all her writing.
What a woman - my 12th Century feminist role-model!

Have a happy, fruitful (but beware of late-cropping blackberries!) and blessed September


Revd Mark Wilson - August 2019

Dear friend, 

As I write this, our schools are about to break up for the long summer break and I imagine many of us are turning our thoughts to summer holidays and an opportunity to get away and have a break from the normal routine, and travel to somewhere new, exotic and maybe far away.

Perhaps for you, holidays are but memories, as you are no longer able to travel, perhaps hardly even down the road, let alone to some foreign destination.  Whatever our circumstances, I’m sure we are all hoping for some good weather this summer! The biggest issue that we are facing at the moment is that of climate change. I imagine most people feel relatively helpless in the face of rising sea levels and the effect of even a small increase in global temperatures on so many nations, including our own.

Although we may only be able to influence politicians around the world in small ways, for example by signing petitions, online or on paper, or writing letters, or even joining protest marches, we can make a difference by the choices we make. As a church only last night at Kintbury PCC we were talking about how we in our own small way could make a difference to this wonderful environment God has called us to be stewards of.

As those who are called by our Creator God to care on a daily basis for His creation, we have a great responsibility to care for this beautiful blue planet both in husbanding its resources and in our use of material such as plastic which, as we have all seen, can have a devastating impact on the environment.  Small differences in the way we live as individuals add up to the possibility of making a large difference to the world. May the One who spoke this extraordinary and fragile planet into being, help us to be mindful of our impact on the world, and may we tread lightly to leave as gentle a footprint as possible, that the generation to come may have a secure future, and continue to enjoy our wonderful home.

With my love and prayers.

Revd Tim Wood - July 2019

People will often ask about favourite passages from the Bible. A fair question, but to my mind, this will often change dependent upon what life is throwing our way at any one time. As I sit here and write, Zacchaeus is on my mind. Why? Well, just now I want to get a better view. A better view of what’s about in our natural world. Spring Watch has woken me up. Jane and I have recorded the series but are rather late in watching, so most of the birds have raised their broods by now. It has raised that desire to get out there and take more notice of my natural surroundings.

But it goes deeper than that, for I’m also wanting a better view of the people and places of Walbury Beacon. How it all fits together and where and how faith belongs within that view. The parts of the jigsaw are all out there, but it feels for me personally as though they are in a heap on my table and they need piecing together.

Jigsaws and I don’t really get along together very well. They take time and holiday’s have generally been the only serious jigsaw time available. Then again, perhaps we play at the jigsaw of life the whole time, trying to work out where we belong in the picture, sometimes feeling we have an exact fit, while at others times we can uncomfortably, try to get ourselves into places which aren’t quite right for us. It’s perhaps specially at these times we might benefit from the alternative viewpoint.

As a chief tax collector, with no shortage of money himself, life must have felt sweet to Zacchaeus. Then, along came Our Lord who changed everything for him. Suddenly, his place in the jigsaw of life wasn’t in the tax booth at all … with help, he saw the needs of others and his place was now among them.

We are very fortunate to live somewhere with beautiful trees to climb and I certainly can remember my tree climbing days. I now enjoy watching my young granddaughter as she looks for the next branch to dangle from,or step up to and of course the view for her widens as she climbs.

For some of us, our sycamore tree climbing days are behind us, but we can encourage others to make the climb and wonder at the alternative view. Each new day is God’s gift to us. It provides the opportunity for us to help one another find the place God has shaped for us, within the wonderful jigsaw picture we rightly entitle, the wonder of creation.

With every blessing and very best wishes to you all….. Rev’d Tim

Letter from Jenny Veasey - June 2019

As a governor, I am occasionally able to inveigle my way in to the school to “help”.  In reality, this involves doing some of the things I really enjoy – making a mess in the “mud kitchen”, looking for mini-beasts, building the most enormous tower possible (until it collapses – sometimes with a bit of sly assistance), reading stories, or listening to a 4-year old working his way through a story about a very dilapidated toy rabbit – “Poor Old Rabbit”.  By the end of the book, we were both very good at recognising that particular phrase, even if we might still be a bit wobbly on the difference between “was” and “saw” – a pesky little pair of words, lurking sneakily in the middle of sentences, apparently with the sole intent of causing confusion.

I am left, pondering, as indeed I spent so much of my professional life, on the extraordinary and wonderful nature of “learning”.

My great-niece has just had her second birthday; recently, her parents and I took her to the playground.  Laboriously, using hands, feet and knees, with a heave behind and a haul before, she clambered up the steps to the top of the slide.  Before launching herself downwards, she paused proudly, gazing over the wall at the nearby allotments – “Look at ME – I can see EVERYWHERE”.  My niece gasped and said, “Where did she get that?  We’ve never taught her ‘everywhere’”.

They hadn’t taught it – but Margot had learned it.  And what an exciting, horizon-shifting concept to acquire.

Teaching – and learning; we’re all involved in it, all the time – it’s how we know we’re still alive.  The best teachers are continuous learners – and good learners are (often unconscious) teachers.

If you’re a parent – you’re a teacher – and my goodness, aren’t you also a learner!  Don’t your children frequently astonish you with the things they do, and say and just – somehow – know? 

When I go into Notrees on a Wednesday morning I learn lots, every week, about tolerance, and humour, and optimism (yes, really) – and about just getting on with life as it is here and now.

In our church year, we have worked our way through Lent, Holy Week and Easter – learning about our own reactions to these events as we go – now we can briefly relax and enjoy the many surprises of the Resurrection period.

But the next learning events are looming up – Ascension Day (how did He do that?), Pentecost (what? Wind and Flame and the Holy Spirit – REALLY?) and Trinity Sunday – and I am happy to offer a prize to the first person who can satisfactorily explain, or teach, the mystery of the Trinity.

So – we are all continuous learners, (thank God), and occasionally, (by the grace of God), teachers as well.  And sometimes, just sometimes, we are lucky enough to experience, or share, or watch, one of those mind-expanding, horizon-shifting moments.

It’s called living – thank God.


Revd Sue Webster - May 2019

I am old enough to remember clearly when Sundays were very different to the rest of the week. Shops were closed (even the newsagents selling the Sunday papers only opened for a couple of hours in the morning). People didn’t routinely go to work. Sunday lunch was a fixed fixture and pretty much always a roast. The parks were full of families playing in the summer and people walking their dogs in the winter. It was common to venture out for a ‘Sunday drive’ in the car – just to see the sites around and about. It was quiet! As a child I remember being bored by Sundays and the unvarying routine of church, roast beef and The Golden Shot on the TV (ask your grandparents!) Obviously I’m old enough to be a fossil and like most other folks now, after church I can be found catching up with shopping, washing and other household chores, to say nothing of putting several hours office and planning work into the day. But the relentlessness of modern life, of constant activity, unceasing stimulation and a fear of silence hardly constitutes human progress either, it seems to me. If you Google the word ‘stress’ you will find many an article that attempts to deal with the effects of modernity on physical health, mental wellbeing and coping with the expectations of daily life. The exponential rise of interest in Mindfulness, meditation and stress-busting exercise like yoga and tai chi is evidence of our attempts to cope with over-filled lives, and very useful these approaches are too!

But what about the old fashioned word ‘Sabbath’? What’s that I hear you ask? Well, it’s a Jewish idea that comes from the story of Creation told in the biblical book of Genesis where God makes the world in all its variety and splendour in six days – and on the seventh day, God takes a rest! In essence, God has a day off! The Sabbath becomes so enshrined in Jewish thought that it forms part of the Ten Commandments (it’s Commandment number 4 – you can find it in the book of Exodus, chapter 20). The Sabbath is more than a day off though. It is time – regular, week in, week out, time – to recover from the daily grind; to take stock of who we are and what our lives stand for; to mull over decisions we need to make or relationship issues we need to give attention to. It is a regular time to re-connect with our loved ones and with the divine presence in our lives.

As we approach the summer months when life always seems to slow down just a little, I would encourage you to seriously think about making a regular, empty slot of time in your life. Make a space for relaxation, creativity and sheer unadulterated fun! What can we possibly lose – apart from our stressed out, worry-filled lives? Maybe our ancient ancestors can still teach us a trick or two. Have a fun summer!

Revd Sue


Revd Mark Wilson - EASTER

Dear All,

Easter is for all Christians a time of hope. As we celebrate the raising of Jesus from the dead so we are celebrating the Christian hope that there is life beyond this life for all those people who follow Jesus. But more than that, we are celebrating the possibility of positive outcomes when they seem most unlikely. As we travel on our Holy Week journey though the arrest, trial and crucifixion of Jesus the hope that Easter brings seems to be an impossibility. As we identify with those early disciples of Jesus who all ran away when he was arrested, except for those who betrayed him or denied him we can see little hope of any positive outcome. Instead we see lives destroyed and hopes dashed. That was the reality of Good Friday for the early Christian community as the disciples skulked and hid away. They could see no hope.

It is only against that background of hopelessness that we can really appreciate the dramatic unfolding of the events of Easter morning. For that early Christian community they really struggled to believe that Jesus had risen. But then who can blame them for that? People do not rise from the dead. And for those who had watched Jesus die on the cross there was just no way forward. Hope had died with him.

It is because of this that Jesus is raised and hope comes alive with the resurrection. Hope is something that springs up when it is not expected. That may be true in your life as it was in the lives of those disciples all those years ago. When you feel like despairing, when you feel that there is no possibility of a way forward in your own situation, look to the hope that Jesus brought on the first Easter morning. And if you think that it is most unlikely that there is any hope for you, remember that the resurrection was a complete surprise for the disciples, so that they could scarcely believe their own eyes.

With God, hope is always a possibility. Easter reminds us of that. As you celebrate the Easter feast may you be filled with hope.

With every blessing.


Revd Sue Webster - Lent

I’m always amazed at the widespread media interest in the church season of Lent. After all, apart from Christmas, the media pays very little attention to what goes on in Church on an average Sunday. Yet, for Lent, people are happy to publically discuss on radio and TV what they are giving up for the season and how long they think they will manage to do without their favourite treat or tipple!

What is it about Lent that captures the imagination so thoroughly? After all, Lent traditionally starts on Ash Wednesday (6th March this year). Following the delectable excesses of Shrove Tuesday the day before, Ash Wednesday is a day of penitence or cleansing of the soul. Many Christians will attend a service and be marked with a cross of ashes on their forehead. This is a sign of mortality, based upon the idea from the book of Genesis that humankind came into the world from dust and will return to it. It is a time to express sorrow over sin, and a reminder that Jesus brings freedom from sin. The subsequent 40 days are an opportunity to remember Jesus’ death. Many give something up in recognition of his sacrifice, whilst others take something new on to contribute more. While all this may be laudable, it is hardly the expected content of discussion on Radio 2’s breakfast show!

I think the allure of Lent is that it gives each of us an opportunity to do a little self-reflection, a little self-examination in the name of a light-hearted competition with ourselves. After all, we’ve just had ‘veganuary’ and ‘dry January’; each attempts to rein in our eating and drinking behaviours – just to check we can in fact do so!

Whilst it is undoubtedly good for us to examine ourselves individually from time to time, I wonder if we are not missing a trick in our observance of Lent. What if we were to consider, not just our individual behaviour, but our collective behaviour too!

The Ho’oponopono Prayer of Apology originated in Polynesia but has become much more widely appreciated in recent years. If Lent is about seeking personal forgiveness for our short-comings, then this prayer is about those things in our world that cannot be laid at any individual door because the problem needs to be owned by all of us together. Consider our beautiful but needy earth for instance: the near extinction of many flora and fauna; the destruction of acres of rainforest; the warming of the oceans, increased flooding, hurricanes and earthquakes and so on. We are all aware of these issues but it’s so easy to feel overwhelmed because these problems are far above the remedy of any one of us individually, no matter how committed we are to personal behavioural change.

The Ho’oponopono Prayer starts by inviting us to think of an issue we cannot personally resolve. It invites us also to take a few minutes out of our busy day to stop, breath and reflect. Then we say:

This is my responsibility.

I am sorry.

Forgive me.

Everything is love.

Thank you.

This prayer is direct. It demonstrates courage and generosity. As we jointly accept responsibility in a moment of shared reflection (wherever we happen to be physically) something changes in us and around us. If you Google this prayer you will find many examples of unexpected positive changes that have occurred because of it. So, I invite you, during the 40 days of Lent 2019 to take time each day to quietly say this prayer. It may change you. It may change the world. What have we got to lose?

Revd Sue

Revd Mark Wilson

I always think of February as a bit of a dreary month. The days are still quite short, and the weather can either be gloomy and wet or clear and icy. There’s really not much to look forward to. There are however two things which I have considered over the years to work in favour of February: firstly, it is a short month, and secondly it has Valentine’s Day in the middle of the month. Valentine’s Day is a ray of sunshine at the centre of this dark month. I know that it is fantastically over commercialized, and many of the cards are over-sweet or perhaps over-saucy for our tastes. And yet I would wish to champion the day because it is a day which focusses on love, and in a world which seems to have the focus of its attention on dark and destructive things, a day which has at its centre the idea of love, cannot be a bad thing.

Of course, love comes in many forms, and can sometimes be twisted and manipulated to show itself as self-centred and controlling. But that is not the fundamental understanding of love which many people share on this day. Instead they celebrate an appreciation of another person for who they are, and the love they declare for that person is outward looking and essentially giving rather than grasping in nature.

It is this idea of love which is at the centre of the Christian faith. We have just celebrated the gift of Jesus to the world as an act of the love. At Easter we celebrate the natural consequence of that loving gift which is rejected by the world as Jesus is crucified, and yet death cannot hold back the power of love and Jesus is raised from the dead. In the New Testament we read a great deal about love as the key to living a good life. Jesus, and many others, distil the law into two phrases: ‘love God and love your neighbour’, whilst in his first letter John clearly states that your love of your neighbour is an expression of your love of God, the two must go together as they complement each other. So perhaps in the middle of this rather dark and dreary month just take the time to think about who you love, and perhaps tell them. That demonstrates your humanity, your love of your neighbour and also your love of God.



Letter from Jenny Veasey

So here we are – just a bit more than half way through Advent – and I’m sitting down to write the January letter. 

Actually, that doesn’t feel quite as strange as it might.  In the village church I attended as a teenager, the vicar would never countenance a Carol Service until after Christmas – “What is there to celebrate,” he would say, “until the baby has been safely born.”  In another church, we used to have an Epiphany Carol Service, with a procession of the Magi bearing gifts.  So I became accustomed to Advent, Christmas and January, somehow merging into one stretch of festive time.

Now don’t get me wrong, I am just as relieved as anyone when the lights are switched off and the cards come down – and, oh yes, the dust is revealed – on Twelfth Night.  BUT the Church continues to ponder, to celebrate, and to wonder at the amazing event of the Incarnation – God becoming Man –  through the weeks of January until the Feast of Candlemas at the beginning of February.  Another Festival of Light as we start to notice how the days lengthen and the dark evenings begin to creep away.

That’s when we remember the story of Mary and Joseph taking their baby son to the Temple in Jerusalem, to dedicate him to God – a Jewish tradition for a first-born boy.  There, they meet Simeon, who has waited all his life for the arrival of the Messiah, and Anna, an elderly prophetess, a widow, who spends all her time in the Temple and who just happened to be around at that crucial moment.

Simeon and Anna both recognise that this is not just any baby boy: for Simeon he is a light for the entire world, not only for his own people, and for Anna he is a reason for the whole city of Jerusalem to rejoice.  And Mary and Joseph?  Well, St Luke tells us earlier in the Gospel story, that Mary “treasured all these things and pondered them in her heart.”

So as we put those ornaments back in their boxes, and take the tree down, and recycle the Christmas cards – maybe we should remember the Magi, and like them, be prepared to search diligently for whatever it is that gives meaning to our lives; maybe like Simeon and Anna, we can rejoice in the coming of the Light; and perhaps – before the daily hurly-burly of 2019 really gets a grip – perhaps we might find a moment or two to ponder silently with Mary,  what “all these things” can possibly mean.

Happy New Year!


Revd Sue Webster - Christmas Message

Even in this oh so secular age, it remains true that Christmas still draws the crowds to church – particularly when compared to other church festivals! Anyone who has ever watched a school nativity play will have glimpsed why. Watching our young children grow, change and explore their world; being rightly proud of new skills learned, new experiences shared - isn’t that what life is about? Robin and I now have two young grandsons (and another grandchild on the way!) Watching Jim and Cameron begin to master their individual worlds has been extraordinary for us to witness. They are simply small (and wonderfully exhausting) bundles of unfolding potential. Isn’t that what we see and what excites us about every child? Isn’t it this that we see implicitly in the child of Bethlehem also - His potential and maybe even our own?

But potential for what? Every parent secretly or otherwise harbours the hope that their child will be someone special, a bit brighter than the average, or faster, or more beautiful than other children around. It’s natural to want the best for our offspring. But even if they are all those things, and maybe more importantly if they are not, what is it all for? The world is clear on that question: a good job, wealth, status, power – these are the things we are encouraged to aim for and attain. Perhaps it’s little wonder that so many of us have poor self-esteem.

And even if we do achieve these things, there’s still this nagging reality that one day, despite it all, well, we are going to die, and none of our worldly achievements will count for anything then. We all want Christmas, few are willing to face Easter.

What the Christ-child offers us I believe is potential on a much bigger scale. A potential to grow, not just the worldly parts of ourselves; our intellect, social skills, sporting or musical talent….but all of us, mind, body and spirit. We wouldn’t get far in this world without the first two, but without our spiritual growth, we are lopsided at best, disabled at worst.  I believe our true potential rests in our ability to look through the eyes of the Christ child to see our importance for eternity, and not just for our lifetime. We may well be tiny specks of dust on a tiny blue-green planet, lost in a vast galaxy amongst vast numbers of other galaxies in this universe, but look into the eyes of a new born baby, and the whole Universe looks back.

The child born so long ago in Bethlehem continues to draw us because he speaks not to our intellect where we tend to want to process everything but to our spirits, to our emotions and to our hearts. We want to know we are here for a reason, that whatever befalls us in this earthly life, our potential is recognised, nurtured and matters. The cross of Calvary might seem a million miles away but it was a destiny this Bethlehem baby chose so that, in his resurrection, we might all see the bigger picture: every child counts, now and forever, and that means you and me too.

I wish you a holy and fun-filled Christmas time!

Sue Webster

December 2018


Revd Mark Wilson

There cannot be many people today whose ancestors were not touched by World War One in some way. Despite the passage of 100 years, it’s a war many of us are familiar with. There are memorials in every village, town and city, acts of remembrance are followed every November to mark its conclusion, and its necessity or futility is still keenly debated.

While images of British Tommies fighting in the mud and trenches of the Western Front remain vivid, and hugely powerful, the First World War was fought on many other fronts which we may not know so well. It was fought across the continents, at sea and in the air. It was fought by servicemen from Asia, North America, the Caribbean, Australasia and Africa. It was also a war that gave rise to technological innovation and scientific discovery.

The centenary gives us an opportunity to explore and discover the unfamiliar stories about a war we think we know.

Of the just over 1,000 people surveyed in the UK, more than half know that it was in Sarajevo that Archduke Franz Ferdinand of Austria-Hungary was assassinated – the initial spark that led to the outbreak of war. Almost 70% know that at Christmas 1914 a spontaneous truce between British and German soldiers took place in the no man’s land between their trenches.

But the report highlighted how knowledge of the conflict is largely limited to the fighting on the Western Front in Europe. Less than half of the Britons asked are aware that North America and the Middle East played a part in the war, and less than a quarter know that Africa and Asia were involved. Yet more than 40% of the world’s population in 1914 lived in countries taking part in the war, and with one in five men serving, New Zealand had a higher proportion of men at arms than Britain, France or Germany.

Almost three quarters of all the people surveyed, in Egypt, India and Turkey, as well as France, Germany, Britain and Russia, believe their country remains affected by the First World War. For 31%, it triggered more conflict; over a quarter see the war as contributing to their country’s identity, while 28% think the war and its outcomes have had a lasting effect on their country’s international relations, and the way it is viewed by people in other countries.

Reflecting now 100 years on, we will gather to remember all those who gave their lives and endeavour to take their courage and live our lives with conviction.

With every blessing,


Letter from Jenny Veasey

Come ye Thankful People, Come

In the Book of Common Prayer, used, though not quite continuously, in the Church of England since Tudor Times, there is a section of “general prayers and thanksgivings”.  The first of these is a prayer for Rain: Send us, such moderate rain and showers, that we may receive the fruits of the earth to our comfort.  The second is a prayer for Fair Weather:  . . . Send us such weather, as that we may receive the fruits of the earth in due season.  The third and the fourth are both prayers for times of Dearth and Famine: Grant that scarcity and dearth may be turned into cheapness and plenty.  Only after these come other prayers for times of war, sickness etc; and in the specific thanksgivings which follow – yes, you’ve guessed it – the first three are thanks for Rain, for Fair Weather and for Plenty.  In 1552, the date of the first version of the BCP, Archbishop Cranmer obviously wanted the Church and the people to value and acknowledge our universal dependence on the natural world.

The very first Christians, like Jesus himself, were Jews.  The Jewish religious calendar has three harvest festivals, reflecting the seasons of the different crops (our dates for Easter and Pentecost still relate to the Jewish festivals from which they sprang); in Anglo-Saxon and mediæval times in England, a “Lammas” loaf was baked from the first grain crop, and given to the local church to use in the Mass;  but it was not until 1st October, 1843, that the Reverend Robert Hawker, of Morwenstow, held the first Harvest Thanksgiving Service as we know it, in his parish church in Cornwall.

Rural villages and communities have celebrated the end of “Ingathering” for centuries – in “Far from the Madding Crowd” Thomas Hardy includes an account of a drunkenly over-the-top Harvest Supper and Dance which almost ended in disaster when the weather abruptly changed – I wonder why Harvest Festival took so long to make it into the Church’s repertoire.

As a child, growing up in a small village on the edge of the New Forest, Harvest Supper was one of our most important social events – with much slightly competitive home-grown entertainment (I wrote a play one year, for my reluctant family and friends to perform) – and you’ve never seen anything like the competition over producing the lightest pastry for the traditional apple pies, variously baked by local housewives (yes, I’m afraid that’s how it was in those days).  We all knew to try and avoid Mrs H’s pies – she was blessed with a very firm touch in everything she did, from dealing with children playing too noisily on the Common, to rolling out pastry . . . .

Harvest Festival is one of the most loved and well-attended events in our churches – it is right and good, surely, to offer our thanks for that most basic, most necessary of gifts, the food to nourish and sustain us.  It is right and good that, with our friends and neighbours, church and community together, we should celebrate God’s goodness in sending us “the fruits of the earth to our comfort”.  And perhaps it is also right, if we have the means to do so, that we should celebrate our good fortune through a gift to one of the many charities which work to share some of our plenty with those who have little or nothing.

Do check the date for Harvest Festival in your local church, and Come, ye thankful people, come.



If only - Rev Mark Wilson

We all know the old joke about the tourist looking for directions. One day he asks a local for directions to a town. The local replies: “Well sir, if I were you, I would not start from here.” How often do we wish we did not have to start a journey from where we are?

If we want to see our local parish grow, reach more people in the local community or do anything new, we can always think of reasons why this cannot happen. Not unlike the local speaking to the tourist, it can be a case of “if only we could start from somewhere other than we are now, then it would work.”

It is too easy to compare our church with others. We covet their parishioners, their money, their ‘luck’! Looking at what we want to do, we can see the resources needed in terms of time, money and abilities.

However, before considering what skills and resources we wish we had, it is healthier to acknowledge what is already in front of us. It is important not to despise what God has given us in the here and now.

In the ‘Parable of the talents’ (Matthew 25:14- 30), the master goes on a journey. Before he leaves, he shares out his resources according to the ability of the workers. On his return, he finds two who have used the talents well and one who has not. We remember well the
words spoken to the diligent servants: “Well done, good and faithful servant! You have been faithful with a few things. I will put you in charge of many things.” The lesson can apply to anything we want to achieve. It is best to begin where we are – not where we would like to be.

Moving away from the ‘if only’ mentality – if only we had more money/different people/ different clergy/different buildings – always has an element of difficulty about it. It is tempting to stay in the secure place of wishing we were starting from somewhere other than we are. Otherwise, there is the danger of being so fixated on where we wish we were that we miss the opportunities that are here now.

Best wishes,



Introduction of Children's Benefice Services - Rev Mark Wilson

I would like to use this month’s letter to let you know that we have decided to introduce a Children’s Benefice Service. Initially this will be on an experimental basis with each of the Church’s hosting one of these over the next year. They will be held once every two months. A leaflet with dates and times is included with this letter. The first of these will be held in Combe on Sunday 16th September at 0945. At the suggestion of the congregation there it has been decided to invite children to bring along their pets to have them blessed at the service. Here are some quotes about Children’s worship that you may be able to identify with:

The elderly gentleman was adamant. Including a children's message in the worship service, he said, distracted other worshipers from focusing on God.

An equally elderly gentleman leaned forward to emphasize his disagreement. He said he was thrilled to see that finally the lambs as well as the sheep were being fed at the worship service.

A mother added her viewpoint. She said that she sometimes got more out of the children's message than the sermon."

Well," said a father, "When I was young, children were expected to sit quietly through a service. So why don't we keep things the way they were? Then there would be no problems." "I'd have a big problem accepting that kids in my family of God are being treated like that," responded a single woman.

Does this sound like a conversation you might overhear at a PCC or Worship Committee meeting? If so, you're not unusual. People have very different points of view about how to include young children meaningfully in the worship service.

An important way of meeting children's needs is to have a worship service that is intentionally more visual, invites more movement and action from the congregation, and is more dramatic in its presentation.

For example, children generally enjoy a praise and worship time in a service. Although it is not especially geared to them, they, along with the rest of the congregation, can clap, move, and feel free to express themselves in song. Using liturgical colours that change with the church year, banners for special occasions and having open microphones for prayer requests are other ways that the worship service can be more inclusive for children.

I believe it is vital that we involve our children in worship and commend these services to you all.


Message from Rev Mark Wilson

In 1962, four nervous young musicians played their first record audition for the executives of the Decca Recording company. The executives were not impressed. While turning down this group of musicians, one executive said, "We don't like their sound. Groups of guitars are on the way out." The group was called The Beatles.

In 1944, Emmeline Snively, director of the Blue Book Modelling Agency, told modelling hopeful Norma Jean Baker, "You'd better learn secretarial work or else get married." She went on and became Marilyn Monroe.

In 1954, Jimmy Denny, manager of the Grand Ole Opry fired a singer after one performance. He told him, "You ain't goin' nowhere son. You ought to go back to drivin' a truck." He went on to become the most popular singer in America, named Elvis Presley.

When Alexander Graham Bell invented the telephone in 1876, it did not ring off the hook with calls from potential backers. After making a demonstration call, President Rutherford Hayes said, "That's an amazing invention, but who would ever want to use one of them?"

When Thomas Edison invented the light bulb, he tried over 2000 experiments before he got it to work. A young reporter asked him how it felt to fail so many times. He said, "I never failed once. I invented the light bulb. It just happened to be a 2000-step process."

In the 1940's, another young inventor named Chester Carlson took his idea to 20 corporations, including some of the biggest in the country. They all turned him down. In 1947 - after seven long years of rejections! He finally got a tiny company in Rochester, New York, the Haloid Company, to purchase the rights to his invention, an electrostatic paper-copying process. Haloid became Xerox Corporation we know today.

Wilma Rudolph was the 20th of 22 children. She was born prematurely and her survival was doubtful. When she was 4 years old, she contacted double pneumonia and scarlet fever, which left her with a paralysed left leg. At age 9, she removed the metal leg brace she had been dependent on and began to walk without it. By 13 she had developed rhythmic walk, which doctors said was a miracle. That same year she decided to become a runner. She entered a race and came in last. For the next few years every race she entered, she came in last. Everyone told her to quit, but she kept on running. One day she actually won a race. And then another. From then on she won every race she entered. Eventually this little girl, who was told she would never walk again, went on to win three Olympic gold medals.

The moral of the above Stories: Character cannot be developed in ease and quiet. Only through experiences of trial and suffering can the soul be strengthened, vision cleared, ambition inspired and success achieved. You gain strength, experience and confidence by every experience where you really stop to look fear in the face. You must do the thing you cannot do. And remember, the finest steel gets sent through the hottest furnace. A winner is not one who never fails, but one who NEVER QUITS! In LIFE, remember that you pass this way only once! Let's live life to the fullest and give it our best.


Rev Matthew Cookson - retirement

I first began to worship with parishes that are now a part of the Walbury Beacon Benefice in, I think, 1994 and have been a part of the Ministry Team serving the six parishes since 1996.  I have seen at least three separate configurations of Benefices and have been licensed to the whole of the current Benefice since its inception.  During the last twenty-two years it has been a pleasure to get to know the six villages that constitute this very beautiful part of West Berkshire.

As a minister It has been my privilege to share not only worship in the seven churches but also to be an assistant at weddings, baptisms and at funerals.  I have met and shared these special times with many of you: the joys and the sorrows.  This has been a significant and very special area for me.

Now I feel it’s time for me to retire, which I will do at the end of June. 

For our churches, this is a time of change.  With the arrival, in September, of our new Priest-in Charge, Mark Wilson, a new and very different chapter in the life of the Anglican Benefice has begun, offering to all our neighbours, Christian and Non-Christian alike the support and care that we all need.  It has been a pleasure to work with him during the first nine months of his ministry here.  From a priest’s point of view, it has been an enjoyable experience, allowing the consolidation of pastoral practice and inspiring confidence in the future.  I believe that good, useful and practical steps are being taken to involve all the church community in discovering how it may, more effectively, represent God and Christian values (a sensible expression of charity) in our villages.

I will be sorry not to be a part of this as it develops but for all of us there are times and seasons. I delayed my retirement due to the Vacancy, through the selection of Mark, his arrival and the start of his ministry here. Therefore, now seems the appropriate time to go, having enjoyed this year’s spring flowers, the arrival of the summer migrant birds and with the prospect of summer ahead.

So, to those who know me, I say thank you very much for allowing me to share so much that has been important for you.  To those I haven’t had the chance to get to know, I am sorry: it would have been good to have done so.

To all of you, I say fare well.  Please, be assured of my prayers as you move closer toward God’s promised and preferred future for the, rather splendid, six parishes that make up the unity that is the Walbury Beacon Benefice.


WBB21 Conference Report from Rev Mark Wilson

Over 50 members of the Benefice met at the Donnington Grove Hotel on Saturday 10th March for our Benefice Conference. The day began with coffee at 10am followed by a short service lead by myself & Archdeacon Olivia.

Following this the day was handed over to Jane Myers our facilitator for the day. The calm way in which Jane conducted the conference was appreciated by all who were present. There were three opening addresses by myself and the two Clergy who had conducted the earlier meetings around the parishes. All agreed that this had been a very useful process in terms of identifying where the parishes were and as a way to begin various conversations on the subjects that had been allocated.

Following these talks Jane took over and indicated the way the day would unfold. Each group of parishes was given a table covered in wallpaper and plenty of markers. For about thirty-five minutes they were asked to begin a conversation and to record their conversation on the wallpaper. Following this they were asked to circulate around all the tables and to again write down what they felt about what others had written. By about twelve noon all the sheets were covered with comments of various kinds. Just before lunch we began to distil these comments into useful areas that the Benefice could focus on going forward.

Following lunch we had a ‘POST IT’ session. This centred on four questions. What are we doing well? What could we do better? What are the amazing opportunities we have going forward? What threats do we face? Once again our flip charts were covered with hundreds of suggestions.

Our final session was to divide all into six groups made up of representatives from all the parishes. Jane then posed three questions.

1.      What can I do?

2.      What can the Parish do?

3.      What can the Benefice do?

People seemed to find this the most difficult session of all. However some wonderful suggestions were made and some offers were made by individuals in terms of specific actions that would come about as a result of conversations that had taken place.

Needless to say there is now a great deal of work required in order to take what was a very positive day for the Benefice and to harness the enormous goodwill that has been generated. I would hope that all of this initial work will be ready to present to all the APCM’s in April.

I thank all who were present for making the day such a success and I look forward to working with you all in the months ahead.


Letter from Rev Matthew Cookson

Writing this in the middle of January, I am going to give in to the temptation to indulge in a gardening metaphor.  I used to have an allotment and hoped at this time of year for the quantities of rain that have recently fallen.  Field damp is an expression that some gardeners find attractive: it indicates a proper saturation of the soil that will help make it workable as the spring develops.  So, a cold, wet January, however dispiriting at the time, can be promising, redolent of new growth to come as the weather warms up and then, along comes February!

I have never liked February: it seems to be the coldest month of the year and to be nearly as bleak as November.  Is it just me, or do we really have some of the coldest, nastiest weather in February?  After the exhilaration of celebrating New Year, it’s back down to earth with a bump as we face up to the reality of trying to live with any resolutions we may have foisted upon ourselves at the end of December – did I really sign up to a dry January and February, with the promise of Lenten abstention so close at hand?

There is a temptation to be gloomy.

Overall, though, it is good to have some ideas about how we are going to try and improve our lives.  It is good to resolve to try and be a little more positive, considerably more charitable and certainly clearer headed.  Above all, it is good to be clear about what we can get better at and to be careful not to set impossible goals that we will fail to achieve.

So, January and February, early March too, is a time to consolidate and determine how we will move forward in the year ahead.  It is a time to lay the foundations upon which our December/January resolutions will be built.

Churches are wonderful places.  They provide a focus for their communities.  They are places we go to celebrate – for baptisms, marriages, Christmas, Easter, Harvest.  They are places where we go to mourn – funerals, Remembrance Day, All Souls.  They are, I hope, places we recognise as being serious and offering a context to our lives.  In a poem called Church Going, the deeply agnostic Philip Larkin talks about hovering outside a church until he is ‘…sure there’s nothing going on’, before he goes in.  He writes about wandering about in the building, its atmosphere and accoutrements.  He even scans, aloud, a few lines from its Bible.  He describes its ‘…tense, musty, unignorable silence…’ and takes‘…off his cycle clips in awkward reverence’.

It is a good poem that both recognises the importance of church and the fact that for many it doesn’t hold the significance it does for those who gather together there and worship regularly.  ‘A serious house on serious earth it is, In whose blent air all our compulsions meet, Are recognised and robed as destinies.’

Such experience poses a deep question for churches: churches that frequently ask themselves how they are to increase their involvement in their communities, encourage growth.  Should they concentrate on getting, as they are teasingly accused of doing, ‘more bums on pews’?  Or, should they be asking how they can find better ways to meet their communities’ needs?

If you are someone who doesn’t find what you need from our ‘…serious house on serious earth…’, we must ask the question: What do you want from us?  How can we make our attention to God and his generosity more meaningful to you?

Yours, in Christ,


New Year Message - Rev Mark Wilson

Entering a new year with all its potential for good or ill and all its uncertainties, is a good time to ask: What is the purpose of life?  Why are we here? The Bible tells us that we are very special beings: we are “made in the image of God.” That means we aren’t just higher animals. We are creative beings, we appreciate beauty (in sight or sound). We are capable of great love. Above all, we are spiritual and eternal beings.

One excellent old definition of the purpose of life is this. “The chief end of man is to glorify God and enjoy Him forever.” This gets forgotten, or ignored. Christianity is also about loving your neighbour. But first and foremost it is about loving God. I firmly believe that you are here, first and foremost, to glorify God, i.e. to worship him, please him and serve him. Maybe you haven’t realised this. However, it isn’t only about glorifying God, it is also about enjoying him forever. 

Like many Christians, I really enjoy God. I look up at the universe on a clear night and enjoy knowing, and perhaps even speaking to, the Creator. I walk alone in the country and sense God looking down at me. Sometimes (not always) in church, the worship lifts me out of myself, so I feel (as the Communion Service puts it) I am worshipping “with angels and archangels and the whole company of heaven.” Sometimes when I am preaching in church or teaching a group, I experience a deep happiness that far transcends any other happiness because I am helping them understand God’s Word.

Anyone who says that real Christianity isn’t enjoyable is greatly mistaken. Yes, there are difficult times too, as in all human life. We are created to enjoy God for ever. That’s why the Bible speaks of eternal life. What is the secret of enjoying God forever? Well, it isn’t a secret actually, it’s been well-known for 2000 years. It is by building a relationship with his Son, who came as a baby to live, die and rise again to make possible our forgiveness, and to bring us into a lasting relationship with God our Father. Why not do that now, at the beginning of a new year. Then I shan’t need to wish you a happy new year: you’re bound to have one, no matter what may happen in 2018.

A very happy and blessed New Year to you all.


Christmas Message - Rev Mark Wilson

December 2017

When does the unusual or unfamiliar lose its power to surprise? If we go by the stories we often hear on the news or read about in the papers it is persistent reporting which takes the novelty away. We quickly lose the capacity to smile or to be shocked when something occurs more and more frequently.

I heard someone say recently that this is a problem with the Christmas story. It has all become too familiar because it has been endlessly repeated. Yet as a film title once reminded us, it is ‘the greatest story ever told’.

Maybe this Christmas we are being asked to look and listen differently as we come to the familiar scene of the stable and the shepherds, the angels and the Christ Child? To look not at the cosiness of it all but at the crisis it represents?

This was brought home to me last year when I visited a Children’s Home on the Algarve in Portugal. I was taken into a little back room and introduced to the Mother of a profoundly handicapped child. She was about seven years of age and totally dependent for everything. Unable to communicate she was despite this cared for and loved. This brought home to me what should be at the very heart of our Christmas celebrations. It jolted me back to reality. In this very homely act I saw afresh the difficulties that many families are facing today as they try to re-discover the true meaning of the birth of this Most Holy Child..

So looking again at that familiar story. What chance of survival did the baby Jesus have? Everything was stacked against him and even troops were sent out to find and kill him. The miracle is that he did survive and became the one through whom God would rescue human beings and set us on the road to peace. Looking at the Christmas Crib this year causes me to wonder that God took such a risk. And to be thankful that the gift of this child is still able to be received by us all. A very Happy Christmas to you all! 


Christmas Letter from Rev Sue Webster

December 2017

The coming of autumn each year confronts me with emotions I don’t feel at other times. I feel a conflict between admiring the stunning colours of the leaves before they fall, and the knowledge that winter – cold, dark and often bleak – is just around the corner. I have a little seasonal ritual to help me through: first my birthday in October, followed by a few days at our caravan in Pembrokeshire where the sea soothes my soul. Then, Bonfire Night (I just love fireworks and the bright lights they bring to the darkening sky!) and then ….Advent. Despite our antiquity, my husband and I always have an Advent Calendar (sometimes with chocolate too!). We also have an Advent Candle which we try to light daily but inevitably life gets in the way and we have to have ‘catch-up days’ when we carefully watch the wick burning to ensure we do not overrun the day we are on! Then, halfway through December we put up our Christmas tree, as big as we can get into the lounge and brightly lit. Finally, just before Christmas there are more candles, lights outside the house and a lit Nativity scene. It’s as if the darker the month becomes as we head for the Solstice, the more light we need to accompany us on our way.

The Church season of Advent begins around December 1st (December 3rd this year) and runs until Christmas Eve. It is the start of the Church’s New Year and in every way possible, it begins in the dark. Outside we head for the shortest day of the year; inside we are encouraged to face the ‘dark’ parts of ourselves, our fears, our anxieties and unresolved problems. Dark and Light. From the earliest of times human beings have always sought to explore within themselves what the elements outside have to teach us. Very often we fear the Dark – outside or within – yet it has just as much to teach us as the clarity that comes with Light; perhaps at this time of year more so. In the darkness of winter, the trees take their rest, getting ready to burst with life once more in springtime. In the darkness of Advent we await the coming of the Christ-child who will illumine human consciousness so that in the darkness of our lives, we can yet come to experience our fears and sorrows as pathways into new hope and understanding.

Advent gives us a much needed space in the dark, to rest, re-group, to reflect and to learn something new about ourselves and about God. If we can use it aright, Advent can be a time to explore (like winter itself) what the terrain of our lives look like when they are barren, bleak and with no obvious path discernible. It is a safe space for our exploration because we know it will end at the Solstice and on Christmas morning when the Light returns to reassure and provide for another year.

So, this season of Advent I invite you (and myself!) to take some time in the dark. Honour what life gives to us all, the sad and painful as well as the hope-filled and joyous so that when the Light does burst forth at Christmas we might all be able to truly appreciate the Life we are all offered.

A peaceful and quiet Advent to you all and a very Merry Christmas!


Some thoughts on how Churches Grow - Rev Mark Wilson  

November 2017

When we think about church growth we seem, I think, almost always to be asking the wrong set of questions. Much of what I read about 'church growth' in fact explores the reasons for church decline. Commentator after commentator asks, 'What are the reasons people are not coming to church?' This leads to huge amounts of hand-wringing, guilt and fear, perhaps especially among clergy who work in situations where there is serious decline. It also leads to too much concentration on 'being welcoming' without any research to show what in fact people find 'welcoming'.

Instead, why don't we ask, 'Why would people come to church?'  Organisations that have energy and the power of attraction are usually focused on what they do believe and what they do offer, not on the stumbling blocks to engagement. They are communities of hospitality gathered around shared values and purposes. In a recent survey people were asked why they might consider attending church. The answers went like this.

To take a bit of space out of my hectic schedule.
To participate in something that takes you beyond yourself.
To learn about Christianity - to ask some of the really deep questions I have.
To be with people who are searching for God or love or something.
For a bit of peace.
To find some strength to carry on.
As a resource for inner light and peace.
To help me find ways of explaining things to my children.
If I felt the other people wanted to get to know me I might go.
I'd hope to discover the wisdom I need to tackle things that are going on in my life.
I'd like to know more about how you can pray and what happens when you do.
I'd like to be able to go just for a bit - if you could come and go like we did here.
I need to see forgiveness - I need it for myself but I need to see it in other people's attitudes too.

If that's what some regular non-worshippers would come to church for, what shape would worship need to take, how would it look and what attitudes and behaviours would need to be in evidence? What language would be accessible? 

The clear message is, I believe, that churches must focus on positive questions like 'What are people looking for?' 'Why would they come?' and 'What will they find that is good here?' 'What will they understand?' 'What is meaningful?' As we discover answers (which we will), we must do more of those things. The question for us here in Walbury Beacon is, can we respond to this and can we do it quickly enough and in sufficient depth? 

Best wishes,


During the Vacancy members of the Ministry Team have written the monthly Parish Letters below.

September 2017

For months now people have been asking, ‘When is the new priest coming?’  Sometimes, it seems, our communications aren’t as good as they might be, or, perhaps, people aren’t in the right place at the right time to hear announcements: again, reading magazines and bulletins, we may miss a crucial part or, indeed, a whole issue.

Anyway, at last, the wait is nearly over and Mark will be joining us this month with his Licensing and Induction on the 27th of September at St Mary’s in Kintbury.  As I am, I am sure that you are really looking forward to welcoming Mark Wilson into our parishes all across the Benefice.  Having met him twice, I know that he will be a huge asset to us as we look towards the future of our churches and their service as God’s disciples in this small part of West Berkshire and beyond where we have parts to play.

One of the things that he will bring with him is a question that I hope informs all our lives.  The question is, ‘What would Jesus do?’  It’s an intriguing question one that grounds us in the very self of Jesus and his mission in the world.  It’s a question that will make us pause and consider carefully what we are to do and how we are to do it.  It will help us audit, if you like, how our share in God’s love, his distribution of Charity toward his Creation, is effective and how real it is.

How we share in God’s preferred and promised future for the world is so important.

Anyway, that is some of my thought on the matter and I don’t want to pre-empt or guess anything that Mark has in mind as he prepares to come and join us.  It has been a real privilege to pray for him over the last few months and to realise that he too will have been praying for us.

So, here is to the 27th and the start of a new and exciting era in our Benefice.


August 2017

It is, I suppose, inevitable that after a lifetime in education, the rhythm of the academic year has become embedded in my bio-calendar.

Thus, September is New Year for me, with shiny classroom floors, crisp, blank exercise books and sharp pencils, new names and faces – while the approach of August heralds a huge sigh of relief and the vista of empty days stretching ahead (it never actually quite worked out like that in practice, but I was ever hopeful).

A previous incumbent I worked with used to encourage all church-based activities to press the pause button at the end of July; August, she said, should be a “fallow month” for everyone.  Of course, if you are a parent with school-aged children, that is probably not quite how you experience it.  But the idea of “fallow time” – down-time – is increasingly important I think for all of us, as the pace of life seems to increase daily and the TO DO – TODAY list lengthens inexorably, no matter how many items we scramble to tick off each evening; I had a university friend who always started her reading list with the books she had managed to get through in the previous few weeks, just for the relief of having something she could cross off.

For some people, down-time will come in the form of a holiday, away from home; for others, a “staycation”; some people find that going on a retreat, or a Quiet Day can allow the batteries to recharge and renew energy and a sense of self and purpose; those of us with dogs, who have to walk them regularly, may be lucky enough to receive a daily reviver from that.

The Jesuits don’t always get a good press; but their founder, St Ignatius Loyola, born in 1491, was perhaps one of the earliest proponents of a spiritual mindfulness, creating a procedure for daily reflection which is now called “examen”.

The idea is that every evening, it is good to spend a few minutes reviewing the past day and preparing for the morrow; for those with a faith, the god in whom they believe will be a part of that.

Ignatian examen is a five-step process:

1. Become aware of God’s presence.
2. Review the day with gratitude.
3. Pay attention to your emotions.
4. Choose one feature of the day and pray from it.
5. Look toward tomorrow.

Although this grew out of a Christian faith (in fact a conversion experience when Ignatius was around thirty years old, and recovering from a battle wound), it is, I think, truly ecumenical in its application suiting equally, committed believers and the many who feel a personal spirituality, but hesitate to call themselves “religious”.  Most people have a sense of something / somebody greater than themselves, whether or not they choose to call that “God”; and for many people, prayer and meditation are inextricably entwined or indistinguishable.

For us here, in Walbury Beacon, this month offers us time to draw breath, as we prepare to welcome Mark into our midst on September 27th. 

So this August – fallow time or not for you personally – take some time; find something from each day which is good and should be celebrated; listen to yourself, your concerns, your joys, your hopes, your sorrows; accept the day that has been and look gently forward to the morning.

I call it prayer; perhaps you name it differently – but however you choose to recognise it, try it for yourself. 

Here’s to a fruitful and fallow August for us all – in preparation for the not-quite New Year in September.



July 2017

I don’t know about you but I am currently feeling tossed around on a sea of uncertainty and change. As I write this, we are all still reeling from the terror attacks in both Manchester and London, from the appalling fire at Grenfell Tower flats in London and with the snap General Election bringing less, rather than more, security for the future is it all surprising that we might be feeling somewhat unsure of what lies ahead?

In the wake of all this I have been asking myself what is the Christian response to uncertainty and insecurity? Where is God in the ‘changes and chances’ of this world and our experiences in 2017?

Like many young people raised in the 1960’s and 70’s I was a passionate teenager who thought my Christian belief meant dedicating my life to changing the world! I truly felt that poverty, injustice and inequality could be swept aside around the globe by the love of Christ. Well, the passion of youth can become the disillusionment of maturity when the complexities of life finally dawn on us and we, like everyone else, become caught up in the challenges of our own lives – earning a living and raising a family for example.

It seems to me now that the challenge of maturity is to understand that the only thing in life we can ever really change is ourselves! Our attitudes, behaviours and priorities are ours, and only ours to own and to hold or change. The trouble is that it’s hard work to challenge ourselves, to face up to our short-comings and to change. It’s much easier to judge and blame others for the problems that beset our world, whether it is individual politicians, whole governments or indeed, terrorists that stir our anger and fear.

Jesus understood only too well the propensity humanity has for closing our eyes to our own faults, while blaming others. “Why then do you look at the speck in your brother’s eye, and pay no attention to the log in your own eye” he says, in Matthew chapter 7. The truth is that we cannot change the world except insofar as we can change ourselves. We can only offer to others what God has shown us to be true. There are no answers ‘out there’; we must each be the answer and step up responsibly to our part in the unfolding of the world’s story.

Years ago a beloved mentor first taught me a truth from the wisdom of the Native American people: learn to walk in another’s shoes and we will also learn to understand rather than judge, forgive rather than condemn, feel compassion rather than revenge. This is strong stuff because it’s never easy to realise that all the conflicts and contradictions of life must first find a resolution in us before we can resolve anything outside ourselves. But paradoxically, it’s only when we do this ‘inner work’, when we face our own issues with honesty and a willingness to learn to be different that we experience  an inner peace which is not so easily shaken by the insecurities and troubles of our world and our own lives. The Prayer Book calls this ‘the peace of God which passes all understanding’, a peace that holds the pain of the world without falling into despair and meets each new day with hope and a desire to live in trust whatever might befall. My prayer for all of us is that the experience of this Peace might truly be our own.



June 2017

It is sometimes thought, and said, that politics and religion should not be mixed.

This may well suit politicians of all or any persuasion, as a way of side-lining a type of challenge which does not sit comfortably within the norms of political debate.

It probably also suits those who would like to enclose religion safely inside the box of the church walls - something "they" do which has no connection with the "real world" - or, viewed from inside the box, something "we" do which should remain entirely private, hidden away.

"Compare and contrast" - as those awful essay titles require - these attitudes with that of Jesus himself.  He was right out there - full-on - all through his life- and world-changing ministry and, indeed, through the action of the Holy Spirit, after his death, resurrection and ascension.  He was out there, in the market-place, on his soap-box, mingling with the crowds, stirring up unrest, visiting the riff-raff and righteous alike, touching the hearts, minds and bodies of the untouchables, bantering with the Pharisees, confronting the "establishment" at every turn.  He turned their own words against themselves; he left them speechless with the speed of his responses and he allowed them to dig themselves ever deeper into the pits and traps they thought they had prepared for him to tumble into.  He would have been a whiz at Prime Minister’s Question Time.  No wonder they hated him.

You can only change the world if you are part of the world and when you interact with the world.  A world which is ruled, governed and organised - politically.

And that brings me to Pentecost (Sunday 4th June) - the extraordinary event that took place in Jerusalem less than 2 months after the political turmoil which resulted in the Crucifixion.  The disciples were told to wait . . . after the Ascension - Jesus' return to his heavenly father.  They didn't know what they were waiting for - but they waited.  And when they were all together, still waiting, the Holy Spirit came to each one of them - visibly in flame and audibly as a great wind rushing through the house.

Straightaway they rushed outside to proclaim their incendiary message – the Gospel – to all the random passers-by, who were miraculously enabled to hear and understand – whatever their mother-tongue.  This event is now recognised and celebrated as the birth of the Church – a Church which was immediately in conflict with all the Authorities as it sought to bring about the total change which is the Kingdom of God.  And that is of itself a politically charged title, carrying the same sort of politically recognisable message as the tri-lingual notice Pilate hung over the crucified Jesus – “The King of the Jews".

If you are a Christian, who wants to change the world for Christ - you are politically engaged - you can't help yourself.  And if you are an honest politician, who honestly wants to change just one small corner of the world for better, whether you are of any faith or none . . . . then you are engaged in something which should never be described as "mere” politics.

 Finally, two brief excerpts from the recent Electoral Communication from the Archbishops:

Contemporary politics needs to re-evaluate the importance of religious belief.”

“All of us as Christians, in holding fast to the vision of abundant life, should be open to the call to renounce cynicism, to engage prayerfully with the candidates and issues in this election and by doing so to participate together fully in the life of our communities.”





May 2017

During Lent, we raised £516 for Christian Aid through our Lent Lunches and the joyful meal with Bishop Andrew at Inkpen on Good Friday – frugal meals, generously provided and paid for generously. Frugality our choice, not our necessity.  And generosity we ae blessed, in this part of the world, to be able to afford.

Christian Aid is running a campaign  with plans for how individuals and churches can combat Climate Change.  They preface their campaigns with the following vision statement and caveat:

‘We hold a vision of a better world, free from poverty and climate change. Where everyone has enough to eat, and can live without fear of their home being destroyed.

But right now, millions of the world’s poorest people are feeling the worst impacts of climate change, and experts predict more floods, drought and extreme weather patterns to come. For those living in poverty, this means more hunger, conflict and insecurity, and a more uncertain future for us all.’

So, what has that to do with us, our financial contribution apart?

I have really been enjoying the recent warm sunshine, and the unusually early Spring flowers; I think wood anemones are my favourites - they seem especially abundant and the first bluebells in the first week of April.   There are already a few swallows about, chiffchaffs, blackcaps and fledgling blackbirds and song thrushes in the garden – just don’t mention the pigeons!  We can all share the joy of the rebirth, after a dull winter, of our beautiful part of Creation.

I have missed something though.  Do you remember the Flanders and Swann song about the calendar with the couplet:

‘April brings those April showers;

rains, and rains, and rains for hours’.

But not this year: minor annoyance to gardeners – or major symptom?

As I think of these, I am reminded of the Lambeth Declaration 2015 on Climate Change (CofE website) issued prior to Climate Change talks in Paris, calling all people everywhere to respond:

"As leaders of the faith communities we recognise the urgent need for action on climate change.

From the perspective of our different faiths we see the earth as a beautiful gift. We are all called to care for the earth and have a responsibility to live creatively and sustainably in a world of finite resources.

Climate change is already disproportionately affecting the poorest in the world.  . . . . We have a responsibility to act now, for ourselves, our neighbours and for future generations.

 . .  . We need to apply the best of our intellectual, economic and political resources. Spirituality is a powerful agent of change. Faith has a crucial role to play in resourcing both individual and collective change.

We call on our faith communities  . . . ."  Here follows a set of priorities signed, amongst many others, by Archbishops Justin and John.  The document concludes with these words:

. . . we urge our Government to use their influence to achieve a legally-binding commitment at the international Climate Change talks in Paris, and with the continuing programme beyond.   . . . . . We are faced with a huge challenge. But we are hopeful that the necessary changes can be made - for the sake of all who share this world today - and those who will share it tomorrow.”

Some may disagree, but for me, and it seems for our Archbishops, faith, politics and climate change are irretrievably combined.

We should be proud that here, in West Berkshire, having already made a financial contribution – may ask ourselves “So what else can we do?”



April 2017 - Revd Sue Webster

When I was eighteen I left my hometown of Malvern to train as a nurse in London. For six whole weeks I was ensconced in the School of Nursing, undergoing the initial theoretical training before being allowed anywhere near the wards. After that first six weeks we were allowed a few days holiday and I returned on the train to Malvern to be greeted by my parents at the station. I remember so vividly alighting on the platform and looking up at the hills beyond (if you don’t know Malvern, it has rather a lot of hills!) I saw them as if for the first time. It was such a shock. I had grown up with those hills all my life but it took an absence from seeing them daily to make me really notice their existence at all!

Forty years on I still remember the shock of that moment as if it were yesterday. Perhaps you too have had similar moments when, quite suddenly you see something familiar anew, as if it were the first time ever. Moments like this tend to linger; sometimes they can be life-changing.

I wonder what Easter means to you? What comes to mind? Memories perhaps, of youthful Easter Egg Hunts, of making Easter greeting cards at school with artistically placed chicks or fluffy bunnies adorning the front cover. Perhaps you welcome the longer days and time in the garden. Perhaps the start of the holiday season puts a spring in your step or maybe it’s the sudden burst of flowers in bloom that lifts your spirits.

It is no coincidence that Easter occurs in the springtime. From the depths of winter, when everything around looks dead, we suddenly notice signs of renewed life. Snowdrops, crocuses, daffodils and primroses herald the leaves which, as I write, are bringing the trees alive all around me. If I stand still long enough I feel I can almost watch nature waking up.

Yet, in the hurly-burly of everyday life, one day looks remarkably like any other. The changing of the seasons can pass us by and with them the opportunity to witness the mystery of life from death which occurs each year as winter gives way to spring.

Of course, for Christians, Easter is centrally about the death and miraculous resurrection of Jesus Christ. Put simply and starkly like that, this cornerstone of Christian doctrine may strike us as an impossibly antiquated belief that has no place in twenty-first century thought or life. Yet, all around us, nature is quietly and in amazing abundance, bearing witness to the annual resurrection of life out of death - from the depths of winter into the new possibilities of spring. A little like my ‘new’ encounter with the Malvern Hills, Christ’s resurrection certainly caught his disciples unawares even though Jesus himself had often told them it would happen. They were never the same again.  It was as if their lives, only ever experienced in black and white became full of new possibility - and in vivid technicolour.

So may I make a suggestion to you? If so, it’s this. Take a moment simply to open a window and allow your senses to take in the renewed world around you. Watch the trees open their leaves; hear the birds sing; smell the sweet scent of newly mown grass; touch the petals of the flowers blossoming all around you and taste the early morning air. Experience the mystery of New Life around you and encounter something of the Mystery of new life that is Easter.

God bless, Sue