Saturday, 15 April 2017

April 2017 - my last Rector's letter

Dear Friends

In my last two Rector’s letters I said I’d commend two precious things.

In March I commended the Bible. This month it’s the Eucharist.

During April we mark the annual commemoration of the death and resurrection of Jesus. The Eucharist is our daily grace-filled marker. Through this day by day, week by week action in St Giles we recall the risen Lord Jesus Christ in bread and wine and are drawn with all on our hearts into the movement of his eternal self-offering to his Father.

The Lord’s people gather on the Lord’s Day in the Lord’s house around the Lord’s table. The Sunday Eucharist is ‘the hour of Jesus’ in which we soak in his presence in word and sacrament to be refreshed as his disciples. Meeting Jesus in the Eucharist goes further than the spiritual refuelling of believers though. Proclaiming the Lord’s death until he comes (1 Corinthians 11v26) has cosmic impact. The memorial sacrifice that is the Eucharist, energised by the risen Lord, is an action transformative of the village, the nation and the world.

It has been a great privilege to stand for 8 years where 51 previous Rectors have stood to take bread and wine, bless them, break the bread and hand Christ’s body and blood to our 100 regular Communicants.

Though I resign as parish priest on Easter Day I’m grateful to the Churchwardens for permission to return and celebrate my 40th anniversary of being made a priest with a special Eucharist on St Thomas’s Day, Monday 3rd July 7.30pm.

With the Bible the Eucharist is one of the most precious things on earth and I commend regular Sunday attendance to each and all in the village.

Anne and I move on with many happy memories of our time here.

We will keep Horsted Keynes in our ongoing prayer and look forward to news sooner rather than later of the appointment of a new Rector.

Yours in Christ

Father John

Saturday, 4 March 2017

March 2017

Dear Friends

In my last two Rector’s letters I want to commend two precious things.

For eight years I’ve been leading our ministry of Word and Sacrament, drawing out the meaning and power of the Bible and the Eucharist.

The Diocesan Year of the Bible causes me to reflect on the hundreds of Bibles gathering dust in the households of Horsted Keynes that to me are like long garaged motor cars. They have power to get our lives moving once we see their significance, get into them and turn the ignition.

The ignition key is faith, a gift of the Spirit, by which we engage with the Word of God through regularly reading scripture texts. My best times as Rector, like these last weeks, have been spent in opening up the Bible to eager seekers, as in confirmation training. I commend to you our forthcoming engagement with the Bible in the Lent Course .

Approached with humble faith the Bible brings spiritual encouragement.  Approached with argumentative pride it presents a different picture.  Mark Twain said it wasn’t the passages of the bible he didn’t understand that troubled him so much as the passages he did understand!

Christians believe the Bible can’t err as it presents the good news of Jesus who died in our place to live in our place to honest seekers. As we prayerfully read the texts of scripture we come into the presence of the living God who gives us a purpose for living and a reason for dying. For whatever was written in former days was written for our instruction, so that by steadfastness and encouragement of the scriptures we might have hope. (Romans15v4).

The Bible is one of the most precious things on earth
Yours in Christ 

Fr John

Saturday, 7 January 2017

February 2017

Dear Friends

2017 is the 40th anniversary of my ordination as a priest in Sheffield Cathedral in 1977.

I look forward to giving thanks with you on St Thomas’s Day, Monday 3rd July 7.30pm when my colleague Fr Mark Liddell SSC of Nuneaton Abbey will be the preacher.

Retirement at some point becomes a reality, and after consultation with those in the parish and Diocese who will be most closely involved in the ongoing needs of St Giles, I will resign as Rector from Easter Sunday 16th April.

This will be a wrench for both Anne and me as we have very much enjoyed living in Horsted Keynes and hold the Church and the village dear to us.

It will be a busy Spring as we radically reduce the contents of The Rectory to fit into a more modest dwelling in Haywards Heath, and carry out some building and refitting projects to effect our house move.

We count many blessings over our eight years at the Rectory and look forward to keeping up with folk within the usual protocols. 

Meanwhile it’s all hands on deck at St Giles as our Churchwardens David Lamb and Peter Vince invite mobilisation to serve the approaching pastoral vacancy.

Over the next months I continue in service but, with Anne, increasingly look to planning our radical downsizing.

Let go, let God.

Yours in Our Lord

Fr John

December 2016

Dear Friends

I hear so many complaints about the materialism surrounding the celebration of Christmas!

It got me thinking: God laid himself open to this by entering the material order since ‘the Word became flesh’ (John 1v14).

As a former scientist I sympathise with those who can’t accept an invisible God whilst insisting myself Mind coming before matter makes more sense of this complicated world. I don’t think matter coming before mind makes any such sense.

What convinces me Christianity is true is the moral force of Christ’s appearance as a refugee on the earth. Ultimate reality has a personal focus, both heart and mind, evidenced by his awesome sacrifice for sin revealed at Easter. The Christmas story has a weak scripture base compared to that of Easter, the truth of which thrills right through the New Testament.

Christianity is itself a materialistic religion. We believe in God so we believe in life, we enjoy God and we enjoy life - but not without an eye to maximising such enjoyment. I ask your generous support for our Christmas charity helping refugees, Brighton Voices in Exile.

Christmas = Christ Mass in which the material of bread and wine carry divinity to all partakers. Holy Communion is surely the best material we can engage with at this Season.

But then you’d expect the Rector to say that!

Father  John

November 2016

Dear Friends

I am writing to you as 51 of my predecessors have written in different ways since Richard de Berkyng (1190-1230).

None of us wrote more than Giles Moore (1656-1679) not even his contemporary the holy Bishop Robert Leighton.

Rector Giles of Saint Giles kept a Day Book of receipts and payments that’s world famous for its account of 17th century life in a Sussex village. Hylda Rawlings, living link with Ruth Bird who published the Day Book in 1971, is talking about Giles Moore 1st December in the Giles Moore Room. This builds on interest in former Rectors fuelled by Ann Govas in her Jane Austen’s Horsted Keynes Relations, my own History of St Giles Church and the classic Church and parish of St Giles by Rector Eardley (1920-1947).

Like all Rectors Moore never escaped criticism. Land of Hope and Glory author Arthur Benson up at Tremains accused him later on of ‘subordinating his principles to his livelihood’! Giles Moore survived like Robert Leighton the temporary abolition of Kings and Bishops but with less grace than his holy contemporary.

Moore’s Day Book ends: Would that I had kept a strict account of my daily shortcomings even as I kept an account of my expenses.

I agree with my predecessor.

Father John

Monday, 15 August 2016

September 2016

Dear Friends

I was at my window completing my tax return when I saw a car leaping across Station Road and crashing upside down. Two ladies from Thursday’s coffee group were pulled out relatively unscathed.

We gave thanks to God in St Giles the following Sunday.

Two days later the murder of a priest at the altar in Normandy shocked us all, and most especially the small group that worships with me in our own parish Church day by day.

We lamented before God in St Giles the following Sunday.

Faith’s an intuition that attempts, day by day, week by week, to make sense of events as disparate as these. It’s the basis of hope, which is faith for the future where what happens tomorrow, good or ill, is seen to be in the hand of the God who turns the wrath of man to his praise. (Psalm 76v10)

The most eloquent sight in Horsted Keynes is St Giles’ spire.  It’s a silent witness inviting us to gather beneath it, to give thanks and pray to God. As we obey its call to Sunday worship we don’t see answers to life’s upsets but we do regain our balance to be better equipped to love and serve.

Yours sincerely in Our Lord 

Father John

Thursday, 4 August 2016

July 2016

Dear Friends

Summertime and the livin’ is easy they played at St James, Piccadilly in the Monday concert on my day off this week.

Over last weekend I’ve been taking it easy with villagers at the Queen’s 90th picnic and the open gardens with some great conversations. Well done all who worked to help our enjoyment!

That you’re reading this might be because you’re taking it easy! P&P’s a great way to spend time. We’re grateful to Sally, Jan, Peter and the team for hard work put in so it lands on the mat month by month. They now live easy until September’s edition.

Balancing work and recreation is a key life skill. Work places have less and less slack and the world of recreation is so diverse it pulls tight at family life, leaving less space for our neighbourhood.

I’m looking forward to livin’ easy this summer with less time on the phone and computer and more time with people, especially at the village events you can read about here.

Taking time with God is what St Giles is about. It may look like yet another demand but it’s a way of keeping the main things in life the main things, including livin’ easy. Church helps keep humanity right minded by holding us to an ultimate perspective.

Enjoy your summer break - and live easy!

Father John