News and Resources

Our churches remain open for private prayer details of opening times can be found by visiting the individual church websites by clicking on the links below:

St Peter and St Paul Stokenchurch

St Nicholas Ibstone

Holy Trinity Lane End

St Mary le Moor Cadmore End

Scroll down this page to find our blog entries which are updated on the Wednesday each week.

Resources for Children and Families

The Godly Play website has lots of great ideas for children’s activities which can be found by clicking here.

The School Assemblies website are during the current situation with Coronavirus publishing short Pause for Thought clips and suggestions rather than their usual assemblies, these they hope will be useful for parents to use at home and for schools to utilise as a resource as they encourage home learning. The Pause for Thought sessions begin in the April lists and the website can be accessed by clicking here.

Roots at Home: Worship and Learning Resources for the whole Church

With worship services and groups of all kinds currently suspended, Roots have created two sets of resources one for adults and another suitable for families and children. These resources are © ROOTS for Churches Ltd (www.rootsontheweb.com) 2002-2020 and are reproduced with permission.

Adult resources click here.

Families and children resources click here.

Live service feeds for Sundays

Diocese of Oxford Live Eucharist 10am

All Saints Church Marlow 9.30am and 11am

St Ebbes Church Oxford 10am

Prayer during the week

Other resources from around the churches of the Diocese

  • Talks, Prayers and Worship videos including an end of term service for our school children from the team at the Church of Christ the Servant King, Booker, High Wycombe can be found here.
  • Live streaming of a daily services from St Ebbes Church Oxford can be found here.

Services on the BBC

  • The BBC have announced they will be broadcasting a live church service on Sunday mornings on BBC 1, please check your TV schedule for time of service.
  • Songs of Praise is broadcast on BBC 1 at 1.15pm on Sunday
  • BBC Radio 4 has Lent talks on Wednesdays at 8.45am, prayer for the day at 5.43am each day and Sunday worship at 8.10am
  • BBC Radio 3 broadcasts Choral Evensong at 3.30pm on Wednesdays repeated on Sunday afternoon at 3pm (times can be subject to alteration)

Services on Sunday 26th September

Please join us:-

9.15                    Holy Communion at Holy Trinity Church Lane End – Revd Philip Smith

This service is also live streamed and can be joined via

https://us02web.zoom.us/j/3448751858?pwd=MDk1WG1DY1VpTWh0KzhFVFJUcnBxdz09
Meeting ID: 344 875 1858
Passcode: clare

9.30                    Harvest Festival at St Peter and St Paul, Stokenchurch – Revd Mark Ackford

Harvest gifts will be donated to Community Matters. Thank you.

11.00                  Holy Communion at St Mary le Moor, Cadmore End – Revd Philip Smith

11.00                  Morning Prayer and Praise at St Nicholas, Ibstone – Revd Mark Ackford

Come down Zacchaeus!

Something I was reading recently made reference to Zacchaeus and the sycamore tree and I thought it might be a good idea to read this well-known bible story again.  The sycamore trees that we are familiar with in this country have the fruit which we used to call flying saucers as children, but as a tree they look pretty difficult to climb.  I then looked on Google and saw that in Jericho where the story took place, the Sycamore tree or as it seems to have been renamed, the Zacchaeus Tree has low thick branches as it rises up with dense foliage so it would be easy to climb and ideal if you didn’t want to be seen.

Luke tells us that Zacchaeus was diminutive in size and of course he was a hated tax collector.  He wouldn’t have had much chance of seeing Jesus if he had been in the crowd, and, apart from his size, he would probably have been elbowed back by those he had cheated.  Grown men did not climb trees but something so strong compelled Zacchaeus to do just that. I wonder what was going through his mind as he waited for Jesus to pass by. Was he just curious having heard what people were saying about this teacher who healed and spoke of forgiveness and hope.  Or perhaps he felt he might be rejected by Jesus because of his lifestyle of dishonesty.

 The tree gave him protection and safety from others, its branches supporting him and allowing him to watch from a distance for Jesus.  Can we become trees for the seekers of Jesus? Are we willing to be climbed upon and used so that another can get a glimpse of Jesus? Sometimes it seems that we are being used and stepped upon or taken for granted  and it is hard, particularly when another appears to have little consideration for our feelings.  Often when we are open to be made usable by God, we are also asked to be resilient to the way in which others respond to our kindness and love and our need for prayer to remain steadfast in bringing the knowledge of God’s presence and grace in the world is ever present.

Jesus sees Zacchaeus and tells him to come down from the tree because he wants to dine with him in his house that very day. This would not have been what the crowd would have expected and there was indignation and grumbling going on among them and possibly this may have included Jesus’ own disciples. At this point it is the crowd that become small, small in heart, small in mind and small in charity. Zacchaeus would I’m sure have been amazed and overjoyed that Jesus has found and chosen him to dine with and makes no mention of his misdoings. Zacchaeus immediately responds to this by declaring he will give away half of his income to the poor and if he is caught cheating, then he will pay four times as much in damages,  repentance indeed!  Jesus then proclaims Zacchaeus as a son of Abraham which restores him to his status among the people. The end of this story in Luke tells us that Jesus then said “The Son of Man came to find and restore the lost” and in saying this, he has a wonderful example in the salvation of Zacchaeus.  However, God’s amazing love is there for every single one of us and his wonderful forgiveness remains even for those who have done dreadful things, if forgiveness is truly sought, God will not refuse. 

I wonder if any of those who saw what happened in Jericho that day recognised this new amazing promise of forgiveness? Jesus never hesitated to demonstrate God’s love to others especially to the most marginalised of society but in doing so he would have also been stirring up those who felt threatened by Jesus’ popularity and healing and would eventually plot his death. 

When wrongs are righted, may we always celebrate with joy without recriminations and stand and support those who may at last be catching a glimpse of God in their lives.

A Paradox

Jesus, Cross, Floor Cross, Christ

Yesterday was Holy Cross Day, a day when the Church celebrates a paradox: that an instrument of torture and death became the symbol of triumphant new life. The custom began in the 4th Century when Christianity became the official religion of the Roman Empire.

Constantine, the first Christian Emperor, visited the Holy Land with Helena, his mother. Helena believed that the “True Cross” of Christ was still in existence and she was determined to find it. The feast became associated with the dedication on Sept. 14, 335, of a complex of buildings built by the Emperor Constantine in Jerusalem on the sites of the crucifixion and Christ’s tomb. This shrine included a large basilica and a circular church. Helena supervised the construction of the shrine, and a relic believed to be the cross was discovered during the work of excavation. However it’s not the substance of the relic that matters; it’s what it stands for.

The Cross means more things than we can express in words. It can evoke sacrifice and death or hope and love. However, St Paul wrote, ‘we preach Christ crucified, unto the Jews a stumbling block, and unto the Greeks foolishness’. It was a stumbling block to the Jews because their scriptures stated: ‘Cursed is he who hangs on the tree’, it was a dishonourable death. To the Greeks, the crucifixion was foolishness, they couldn’t believe in a vulnerable god who could suffer and die.

Nevertheless, St Paul continued, ‘To those who were called to be Christians, both Jews and Greeks, Christ shows the power of God, and the wisdom of God; because the foolishness of God is wiser than men; and the weakness of God is stronger than men’; and so, the Cross of Christ was glorified.

But despite all the powerful symbolism we mustn’t forget the reality of the True Cross. Jesus wasn’t crucified neatly on an altar between two candles. He was nailed to a rough and splintery cross between two thieves, on the city rubbish dump. Jesus had known how much he would have to suffer but did nothing to avoid it. He accepted it as the climax of his earthly ministry. His last word before he gave up the ghost was a cry of triumph: ‘It is accomplished!’ So we glory in the Cross of Jesus, because he is our salvation, our life and our hope, and reigns now as Our Lord.

It’s cricket Jim, but not as we know it!

Over the summer Lucy and I were enthralled by the newest format of cricket known as ‘The Hundred’.

The tournament gave equal weight to both men’s and women’s sides, with almost all the matches taking place as back-to-back double-headers at the same venue on the same day. A great innovation was that one ticket gave access to both the men’s and women’s games, and men and women shared the same prize money.

The games were shown on terrestrial free to broadcast tv generating quite a lot of interest. We were certainly hooked.

The decision to create an entirely new format of cricket, with teams based in just seven major cities, split opinion between traditionalists who favour the historic county cricket structure and those who wish to see change. There was also some controversy from anti-obesity groups criticising the sponsorship from snack food company KP Snacks.

The 100 ball format was full of razzamatazz and a few gimmicks with one major change to cricket as some may know it, for there were 10 ball overs and with an option for a bowler to bowl all 10 balls or split it between two bowlers each having 5 consecutive balls. Each bowler was only allowed 20 balls though in any combination.

But in every other respect the bats and the ball were the standard sizes. The stumps were the same height and the same distance apart. All the classic rules of how a batter might get out were there.

The games were played in some of the most iconic cathedrals of cricket. Some of the best players were there though the teams had a regional feel with gladiatorial names such as the Northern Superchargers and the Oval Invincibles.

The format was invented to attract younger and more diverse crowds to watch cricket, with the expectation that the shorter format would mean each match lasted around two-and-a-half hours. With the need to get as many runs on the board, the boundaries and sixes were obvious crowd pleasers at times reminiscent of baseball. The lights in the stumps and bails flashing as someone was bowled or run out was dramatic, especially as the floodlights came on. Between breaks and during the innings, DJs played music and there were some live singers all creating a party atmosphere.

So was it cricket? Well if it looks like a duck(pardon the pun) and walks like a duck it is invariably a duck and this was cricket, packaged for a newer audience.

But the essence of cricket was all there. 11 players pitched against each other to thrill a crowd on a summer’s afternoon and evening. Perhaps the church could learn some lessons from The Hundred. One might be that we needn’t fear change if the essence and the main thing is always at the heart of all we do. Discuss.

Keep the faith, but never to ourselves.

Love Philip x

Journeys

(pixabay free images)

Since the restrictions have eased, I have been making the most of seeing my wider family, and therefore have been doing quite a bit of travelling – mainly by car and by train and by coach, and sometimes on foot.  I am grateful for the signs at railway stations to tell me which platform to go to, and when my train is expected, and when there may be a delay. Even signs to tell me when to get off the train.

I have been thankful for motorway signs alerting me to forthcoming junctions, or signs flashing up why there will be a delay and estimating how long it will last. (I find it easier to accept a delay or a detour if I know the reason for it.) Signs to alert us to an appropriate speed to go, and indicating where it would be unsafe to go.

On my most recent journey with my son, I got so engrossed with the radio programme I was listening to as I drove, that I missed my motorway turn and that cost us several extra miles and extra time.  We do need our attention fully on what we are doing.

On another journey I realised that the ‘sat nav’ had not been updated, when I thought it had, and it failed to flag up to me that half a mile from our starting point at home there were five miles of stationery queues that I could have avoided if I had realised. Some early morning journeys have had a misty, unclear start, and it’s extra important to keep a safe distance from the vehicle in front.

How important it is to be prepared on our journey, to plan ahead where we can, to tune in to updates as we travel. We need to be alert to hazards and directions especially, in my case, when it is a route I have travelled many times, and I can become a little less attentive to the details.

It started me thinking about our travel on the road of life. With the many distractions and uncertainties that we face day by day, it’s easy to lose our way or take a wrong turn somewhere along the road. Whether it’s mistaken decision with job choices, or our relationships with friends and family or even in our relationship with God, we may lose our way at times.

Wouldn’t it be so much easier in life if we had more ‘signs’ to show us the way to go and the potential pitfalls ahead ?!

But the wonder of God’s grace is that He allows us and even guides us back into the right path. He wants to help us on our journey through life, to be the one who travels with us.

He does this through the Holy Spirit who gives us knowledge and wisdom to discern our own actions and thoughts, to help us when we go astray  — whenever we reach out and ask Him.

If you’ve lost your way, know that it’s never too late to get right back on track. It starts with a simple decision of taking time to sit down and reflect upon the aspects of your life, asking God whether you are going the direction He wants you to go in these areas, and asking Him to show you which way to go. And then the way can become clearer, perhaps through a change in circumstances, one door closing and another opening, through what God brings to your mind.

If you’ve gone one or two wrong turns, ask the Holy Spirit to give you guidance in returning back to Him.

We have these encouraging verses in the Book of Proverbs in the Bible:

Trust God from the bottom of your heart; don’t try to figure out everything on your own. Listen for God’s voice in everything you do, everywhere you go; he’s the one who will keep you on track.

Proverbs 3:5-6 (The Message paraphrase).

“In all things, be content”

Uist - Outer Hebrides
The Island of Uist

Recently we saw a remarkable documentary on television about “The Scottish Island that won the lottery”.  This happened in 2020 when a remote island in the Outer Hebrides, North Uist, won £3 million on the People’s Postcode Lottery. There are just over 1,000 inhabitants on the Island and they have lived self-sufficiently and resourcefully within a supportive and caring community and despite not being cash-rich, are wealthy in traditions and language, stretching back over the centuries.

  There is a strong work ethic; one of the islanders has several jobs as does her husband to support their young family, there is very little money left after living costs are paid but this did not seem to matter very much to this family, they as so many others who were interviewed, were content, they lived in a beautiful place, however remote, and the community looked after each other and knew each other, helping out when needed, socialising and generally asking for nothing more, being rich in this way of life. Duncan, aged 80 was filmed cutting peat and loading it into his wheelbarrow which he had mended, patched and repaired many times. He mended everything from what we might see as a pile of scrap metal of bits and pieces but from these Duncan would repair anything that broke down, including his patchwork wheelbarrow!  

So what happened when the Islanders received between most of them figures ranging between £21,00 to £200,00 each?

It was of course exciting and totally unexpected but the result was not what we might imagine it to have been.    

Of the Islanders interviewed, they mainly purchased items that would improve their work; one woman bought a new distiller for her daughter and husband who had set up their own business producing spirits but up until now had done this all by hand. Another bought a new car replacing a much loved but old one. When asked what it was like to have a new car she replied with a smile, “Do you know it doesn’t feel any different from the old one, as long as it gets me from A to B that’s all that matters”. And Duncan, the 80 year old peat cutter decided from his £22,000 to buy a new wheelbarrow! It cost him £59 but he was still going to keep his old one in case he needed it! He also replaced some cooking pots and pans with non-stick ones and his big spend was a new chair to sit in by his hearth.

To quote one newspaper summing up the programme” In the end, this documentary produced a life affirming tonic by introducing people who prioritise family, friends and practical things over money. It shows why that, not hard cash, makes North Uist the richest post code in Britain”.   

I was thinking about how this could be linked to what Jesus said about storing up treasures on earth; there was no reference in the documentary to the Christian way of life but it seems to me that by not allowing this unexpected ‘treasure’ to dramatically change  their way of life, holding on to and valuing what they already have, they are effectively in every sense appreciating the beauty of their surroundings, the people they live with, work with and care for, and these indeed are their treasures on earth.   

1 Timothy 6 17-19 speaks of those who are rich not to set their hopes on the uncertainty of riches but on God who richly provides us with everything to enjoy –“They are to do good, to be rich in good works, to be generous and ready to share, thus storing up treasure for themselves as a good foundation for the future, so that they may take hold of that which is truly life.”

I think these Islanders have a hold on the life which is truly the life that God has richly provided for them to enjoy and I’m also sure God blesses them for it.