Churches across the parish have closed for worship from the 20th December 2020

Following Buckinghamshire entering Tier 4 of corona virus restrictions and after receiving permission from the Archdeacon of Buckingham, the Team Rector and the Churchwardens of the churches of the Benefice have made the difficult decision to cancel all future services and close our churches for worship for the foreseeable future. We are aware that churches are allowed to remain open for Communal Worship in Tier 4, but the Bishops of the Diocese have issued a Pastoral Letter from which the following is taken:

‘As bishops we assure you of our continued and prayerful support for all that you are carrying. We also want to give clear and explicit permission to you not to hold in-person services if that seems best locally. You will need to give particular consideration to this if you are in an area where infections are rising rapidly, if you or your family are vulnerable, or if others who are essential to your worship such as Wardens or organists are in vulnerable groups. Most parishes are able to stream or record worship and Church at Home is available for those who cannot.’

Our services will therefore be reverting to zoom as of today and please see below for the invitation to our next Sunday service.

We acknowledge that there will be those who will disagree with our decision, and we recognize that our parish churches for hundreds of years have been places which have been used by our village communities for quiet prayer and reflection, to give hope and comfort and a way through difficult times, so we feel that it is equally important that our churches remain open for private prayer as they did during the previous national lockdown, so please look at the individual church websites for more information regarding this.

To ensure your own safety please follow each churches covid 19 procedures and guidelines when you attend for private prayer. Please do not attend if you are showing any symptoms of covid 19.

Sunday 21st February, a Service of the Word via Zoom at 9.30am

Join Zoom Meeting
https://us02web.zoom.us/j/83288496263?pwd=VWVvaU9na0ZpblFaZjlOTW5wNTF6UT09

Meeting ID: 832 8849 6263
Passcode: 259788

Team Ministry News

We have a new member of the Ministry Team joining us in the near future as we have successfully appointed a Missional Team Vicar who is the Revd Philip Smith, our thoughts and prayers are with him and his wife Lucy as they begin their preparations to move to join us here in the parish,

Philip has written the following to introduce himself and his wife Lucy.

Hello, we are Philip & Lucy Smith, and we are looking forward to
serving with you all sometime soon. We are both originally West
Londoners, I was born in Fulham and Lucy was made in Chelsea.
We’ve thankfully converted Lucy into supporting Fulham.
Our sons in their 30s are based in: West London, Luke, Joy and
granddaughter Aria, in Oxford James & Roseanna and expectant
baby, and in Paris, David & Alice.
Lucy’s mother lives near Biggin Hill.
We love people, sharing and getting to know a whole community
whoever they are. We both love music, family and being creative. I
taught Secondary Design & Technology for 20 years and was
ordained in 1998 having been to Oak Hill College for three years
with the whole family.
Lucy has spent 19 years working with the Diocese of Gloucester in
Pastoral Care training for churches and working in schools, and
originally trained as a nurse.
We served in the Town Centre of Cheltenham for a 5 year curacy
and then to West Cheltenham serving as a Team Vicar in a large
urban parish.
We appreciate how this season has been for everyone and we pray
for you all and especially those who may be grieving loved ones or
are anxious in these challenging times.
Keep the faith, but never ever to yourselves x
Have a good day. Philip

We are also celebrating the licensing of Heather Ford Lark as a Licensed Lay Minister, her licensing service conducted by Bishop Steven took place virtually earlier in November. You can see a recording of the service by clicking on the following link:

https://vimeo.com/484122692

Congratulations to Heather and our thoughts and prayers are with you as you start this new phase in your ministry and walk with our Lord.


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)

Snowdrops

Most days I try to take a walk outside, whatever the weather, and this past month I have so enjoyed looking at the snowdrops, a flower brought to England in Roman times, and flourishing here ever since, under various poetic names such as ‘Snow Bells’ and ‘Dew Drops’.

Because it is the first flower to bloom at the end of winter and the beginning of spring, the little snowdrop symbolizes hope for many. I think they are at their best just now, and this picture was taken on my walk a couple of days ago in Stokenchurch.

After the dark, damp colourless days of winter, the little green shoots poking through the earth, surviving frost and snow, are a sign of encouragement in hard and dark times. The snowdrops during the winter months are buried deep in the ground and appear to be lifeless, and  then they burst through the frozen ground full of life and bringing the promise of better days to come.

When we had particularly cold weather recently, I wondered whether the snowdrops would survive, but nestled under dead leaves and in shady places, they had been sending down roots and growing new bulbs.  I have read that the head of the flower will collapse in freezing temperatures and reopen when the weather gets warmer, and there is a resilience about them.

A number of years ago when my father- in- law was in hospital at this time of year, in the days when you could take flowers in to patients, he had many lovely flowers sent to him, but the posy that was most commented on was the simple one composed of snowdrops brought from his garden. Somehow, small though they are, they are a source of joy and hope for many, and make their presence quietly known even when there are larger more colourful plants at hand.

I think this can be an encouragement to us- it is not always the biggest and the brightest (in our perception) that is most noticed or most appreciated. We can bloom quietly and make a difference and spread hope exactly where we are, exactly where God has placed us.

In Matthew’s gospel (chapter 6) Jesus talks about the flowers of the field, those flowers that we see outside which are just ‘there’ without effort on our part.

He asks why we worry? If God takes so much care about the humble flowers which live and die every day, creates them so beautifully, how much more will he care for us if we look to Him and put Him first in our lives.

  • When we next notice snowdrops, they can be a reminder to us that God sustains both the snowdrops and ourselves through the difficult winter seasons of life.
  • The intricate beauty both on the outside and inside of a snowdrop can remind us of God’s intricate care and provision for us, His masterpiece of creation (look at Ephesians 2 v 10).
  • We can remember, too, that however insignificant we may feel, God can use us to be a source of hope and encouragement to others.

Come and See: Our Lent Study Group

Lots of people are asking deep questions of faith at this time. Come and See is an invitation to everyone and anyone who feels adrift in this pandemic, whether or not they know anything about the Christian faith.  For our Lent Study this year we will be joining the Diocesan lead initiative ‘Come and See’ when you register your interest during Lent you will receive via email a daily reflection and then once a week there will be an opportunity to come together for bible study via zoom using resources based around the Creed. Below is a small taster.

Read John 1:35-42

What’s going on in this passage from John’s gospel?

Well, first we see that John spots Jesus, and points him out.  He points him out in a way which intrigues those who are with him.  They become curious, and walk behind Jesus, perhaps looking nonchalant, perhaps not really wanting to be seen, until Jesus turns round and asks them a direct question – what are you looking for?  Not who are you looking for.  What. 

They seem caught off guard.  Perhaps they haven’t really thought about what they are looking for.  So, they reply with another question Rabbi, where are you staying?  They don’t want Jesus to disappear; they want to be able to find him when they feel ready. 

And what they get is a direct invitation, Come and See. The rest, as they say, is history.  Today more than 1/3 of the world’s population, about 2.1 billion people are Christians.  It all started here.  And this is how it continues.

We know that 1 in 5 of our online congregations were not regular worshippers before COVID.  What were they looking for when they dipped into, or joined online congregations?

Some may have been looking for entertainment for their kids; some may have been looking for somewhere to belong, a sense of community in lockdown; some may have been looking for assurance – as life became less certain and end of life started to loom larger. Some may have been curious, and had the time and the possibility to explore, to dip their toe in. Some may have been looking for answers or a roadmap as they tried to make sense of what was, and is, happening to the world.

All around us, people are searching for meaning, and their search can take many forms, some try meditation; some try drugs; many try religion in different forms.  And a good number have tried our online congregations, or hovered around the fringes of our church communities for some time.

Jesus says, Come and see, come and explore, let me help you to understand how all this fits together.  There was nothing coercive about the way he engaged with them – only a gentle, gracious invitation to come and see, to hang out and find out more. 

This invitation connects with some kind of desire, some kind of unmet need, a sense of longing. We need to encourage and equip all of God’s people to notice what God is up to and who with. So, why not come and see?

You can register to find out more and receive your daily reflections here on the Diocesan website: www.oxford.anglican.org/comeandsee

The Parish Come and See Zoom Bible Study will take place for the next 5 Sundays at 3.30pm for approximately 1 hour please use the link below if you would like to join:

https://us02web.zoom.us/j/87125943424?pwd=bExDd2UrMEorZXgzeEtHTjVhYzkxUT09

Meeting ID: 871 2594 3424
Passcode: 867276

What is Lent all about?

The Lenten Cross at St Peter and St Paul’s Stokenchurch made from this past year’s Christmas Tree

On this Ash Wednesday the first day of Lent, let us stop and think about what this season is all about. This quotation from ‘The Seven Sacraments’ by Anselm Grun of ‘Those who can’t do without things will never develop a firm individuality’, is I am sure for most people what Lent is indeed all about – doing without things or as we more usually put it, giving up things; and there is nothing wrong with that.

Lent starts with the account of Our Lord’s fasting and temptation in the wilderness – forty days of ‘doing without’ even the basic necessities of life. So there are far worse ways of keeping Lent than giving up something – something which we enjoy, something which is not sinful in itself, but something which reminds us constantly during Lent of the season we are in. Sugar in tea or coffee, biscuits, the daily glass of wine, sweets, cakes – these are all things we can do without, and though only a token sacrifice, they will help us to remember why we are keeping this solemn season.

Although Lent is a solemn time, it is certainly is not a dull time. The purple cloth adorning the Lenten Cross at St Peter and St Paul’s in Stokenchurch is a royal purple, reminding us of the purple robe which his tormentors put on Jesus in mockery of the claim made by his enemies that he said he was a king. Lent is not a time of self-punishment so that God will think better of us and with a little bit of luck will forgive us. Lent is a time for sharing in the passion and death of Jesus, a passion and death which he willingly embraced for you and for me.

So, there is a paradox running throughout the whole of Lent. It is a solemn time but not a dull time. It concentrates on serious matters but in an exciting way. Its focus is the passion and death of Jesus, but it is a preparation for Easter, the day of the resurrection.

We keep Lent in purple, with a church devoid of flowers; and we do not use the great word of praise and rejoicing, alleluia. Yet the proper Prefaces for Lent talk about ‘this joyful season when we prepare to celebrate the paschal mystery’; ‘this great season of grace, your gift to your family’. All the things which you might think were sad or depressing or even sorrowful are in fact extremely positive. We do these things, the doing without, the self-discipline because they are a preparation for the Paschal event, paschal a word that refers to the Jewish Passover and the Christian Easter, a word that encapsulates both death and resurrection, a word for the great days of Maundy Thursday, Good Friday, Holy Saturday, and, of course, Easter Day itself.

So, I invite you to have a good Lent, a serious Lent, a self-disciplined Lent, but above all an enjoyable Lent, a positive Lent, and because you will then have used Lent positively, you will indeed have a glorious Easter.

Trees of hope

A magazine arrived recently and on its cover is a lovely picture of trees, the artist depicts them from below, looking up with blue sky between the trunks and a suggestion of sunlight just showing through at the top.  It reminded me as I looked at it of a programme I saw a while ago where Chris Packham (a presenter of Winter watch) was talking about how just laying beneath a tree and looking up was for him a way of calming his mind and body and had real  therapeutic  benefits. Chris lives in the New Forest and the path from his house leads into a wooded area where the sound of birds can be heard without the background noise of motorways etc.  Chris lives with Autism and relates to nature; birds and animals which demand nothing and give him the peace he needs.

Trees are mentioned quite often in the Bible the two trees we first hear of are those planted by God in the Garden of Eden, the tree of Life and the tree of Knowledge. God planted trees to be things of beauty giving fruit; the olive and fig trees in bible times and trees as shelter for the weary.   Many myths and legends have grown up about trees, their symbolism for good, for healing and life giving properties and today we know so clearly the importance of trees in the fight against climate change.

 I’ve always loved the story of Elijah when fleeing from Queen Jezebel’s armies, he collapses exhausted under the shelter of a broom bush and tells God he has had enough, he cannot go on. He falls asleep and an angel wakes him urging him to get up and eat and offering him a cake and some water.  Elijah eats and drinks but still goes back to sleep again.  The angel wakes him once more with cake and water and this time Elijah does get up and sets out once more on the journey God has destined for him.

We can probably identify with the feeling that we’ve had enough, this lockdown, this taking away of all the things that we hold dear and would normally sustain us such as family, friends, just being around other people and having the freedom to do so.  And maybe we need a few goes at getting back to feeling confident again and believing that God holds all things including each one of us and will never let us go. 

Trees represent hope and new life, there are already buds appearing on the branches bringing the hope of spring and new life that will appear in blossom and foliage. As the signs of new life appear, may they give us hope and the comfort of knowing that life will come again for us all and with joy let us remember also that this is the promise God gave us through Jesus, “In him was life, and the life was the light of all people” (John 1 verse 4)

                             —————————————

This poem Rood-Tree is in a book by Ann Lewin.

I might have been his cradle, rocking him, folding securely against harm. I could have been a ship, turning my sturdy timbers to the wind, keeping him safe from harm.

Instead, they used me as His cross.

No infant rages rocked the cradle tree, or storm lashed ship such as unleashed on me that day.

Shock waves of hatred crashed against me, bearing on me through his body

weight of the world’s pain, weight of his agony;

wringing from him, drop by drop, “Why God, you too?”

No comforting protection could I offer, or deliverance; only support, his mainstay in distress.

But did I hold him, or did he with strength of purpose lovingly embrace his work of suffering, stretched out on my arms?

They say it was a tree whose fruit brought sorrow to the world. The fruit I bore, though seemingly shame,

they call salvation.

My glory was it then to be his tree.

What Would Jesus Do?


Back in the 1990’s there was at time when wearing a bracelet with W.W.J.D (What Would Jesus Do?) written on it was very popular. In fact, the bracelets are still readily available today. The phrase was a reminder for people to act in a way that reflected Jesus’ teachings from the Gospels.
I believe this is still a question we can ask ourselves. As Jesus’ disciples, we are to do the things Jesus did, and apply the principles he applied. That may look a bit different for each of us as we all lead different lives, but there are some pointers in the Scriptures as to how that could look now, even during the lockdowns we are all experiencing.


Jesus often spent time with God our Father.
Jesus spent a lot of time speaking with His Father, connecting with Him, worshiping Him, especially when he was weary, when it had been a hard long day, and when he had decisions to make. He also spent time in prayer early in the morning before a busy day, and there is the well-known prayer time in the Garden of Gethsemane before Jesus faced the ordeal of his crucifixion and God’s plan of redemption for us all.
Bringing ourselves to God in a pandemic, or in any challenge we may face, is a good idea. God can give us his comfort and peace, and the certainty that He will always be with us whatever we are going through. He can work things out for us better than we could anticipate.
We as the Christian church, have the opportunity to come out of this pandemic stronger, more vibrant in our faith than when it began.
Can we express the hope that we have in Jesus Christ and share it with others?

Jesus prayed for others.
We read that Jesus prayed for all those who would believe through the Christian message. He prayed that we would be in unity, and a good witness to the world, and that by who we are and how we act, we would show God’s love to others.
We can pray for those who are suffering whether in our own country or those suffering for their faith in other lands and for those who are mistreated. (Hebrews 13 v 2-3). We are encouraged to pray for those in authority over us. (1 Timothy 2 v 1-2).
We can ask God to bring to mind those who He wants us to pray for.

Jesus cared for others.
In the Bible, we read of Jesus having compassion on those who were sorrowing, such as when He wept when He heard that Lazarus was dead. He healed those who came to Him, He reached out and touched them, and He can draw near now to those in turmoil, even we cannot physically do so at the moment.
Jesus can comfort us in the troubles we go through, and in turn we can offer comfort to those who are going through difficult times, whether it be by praying for them, offering practical help, a phone call, or perhaps listening on the phone.


Jesus walked alongside people…and He still does.
After Jesus died, two disciples walked along the road to Emmaus, very dismayed and disappointed that Jesus had died. It seemed that their hopes and expectations were destroyed – the Kingdom that Jesus spoke of seemed to have come to nothing. They had hoped for so much more.
And then, quietly, Jesus joined them and walked with them, listened to them, gave them new reasons for hope and revitalised them. Jesus can do that for us too. He can give us a greater vision for what He can do and what the future can look like with Him in the picture.
There are many things we may have hoped to have done. We had hoped to be worshiping all together by now, we had hoped to be spending time with our families, going on holiday… …you can fill in what you had hoped for.
The good news is that Jesus is always ready to listen to us and bring a new perspective into our lives, new hope.

Be the light in the darkness

Cemetery, Head Stone, Squirrel, Flower Bed, Bricks

As we continue to fight the coronavirus with the national lockdown, it is easy for our focus to remain on this and for us to become distracted from other issues and events which can if we are not careful fade into the background of our life’s.
So today I would like to remind you all that it is Holocaust Memorial Day as the 27th January marks the anniversary of the liberation of Auschwitz-Birkenau, the largest Nazi death camp. The theme for 2021 is ‘Be the light in the darkness’ and it encourages everyone to reflect on the depths humanity can sink to, but also the ways individuals and communities resisted that darkness to ‘be the light’ before, during and after genocide.
Be the light in the darkness is an affirmation and a call to action for everyone marking Holocaust Memorial Day. This theme asks us to consider different kinds of ‘darkness’, for example, identity based persecution, misinformation, denial of justice; and different ways of ‘being the light’, for example, resistance, acts of solidarity, rescue and illuminating mistruths.
Increasing levels of denial, division and misinformation in today’s world mean we must remain vigilant against hatred and identity-based hostility. Rapid technological developments, a turbulent political climate, and world events beyond our control can leave us feeling helpless and insignificant. The utterly unprecedented times through which we are living currently are showing the very best of which humanity is capable but also – in some of the abuse and conspiracy theories being spread on social media – the much darker side of our world as well. We can all stand in solidarity. We can choose to be the light in the darkness in a variety of ways and places – at home, in public, and online.
For more information on National Holocaust Day visit the following website: Holocaust Memorial Day Trust and my thanks to the Trust for providing the information above.
Finally this evening at 8pm I invite you to join the nation by lighting a candle and safely putting it in your window To remember those who were murdered for who they were and to stand against prejudice today.


In God’s Hands

2 Corinthians 4-7 But we have this treasure in jars of clay to show that this all surpassing power is from God and not from us.

Just recently I have seen a programme on television about pottery and it reminded me of many years ago when at my secondary school we had art classes which included pottery.  I loved this lesson, the feel of the clay and controlling the wheel as it spun to bring shape as I moulded my pot. There is something about clay, its pliability, it is never cold to the touch and the possibility of what it might become in the hands of the potter.

We often talk of God being the potter, how he shapes and moulds us as we become the vessels he has made.  One of the lovely things about clay is that if it goes wrong, if the pot starts to wobble and go out of shape it can be reused to start again.   In the same way, we can be encouraged to begin again when we have made mistakes, when we have failed to take the right path.  God does not leave us unshapen or without direction but over time he will help to reshape our lives once again and delights in the new vessel we become. But clay pots even when completed after having been fired are still fragile, they can break very easily, especially when they are empty.  The analogy that Paul makes in the above passage from 2 Corinthians is that we are the earthenware vessels in other words, fairly ordinary everyday objects made from clay, a common material which in itself has nothing of value, nothing pretentious.  But all vessels are made to contain something and if they do not then they are of little worth.  The treasure that Paul refers to contained in these vessels, contained in us, is the inestimable power of God which can transform lives from being empty and meaningless to being full of hope, full to the brim of love for God and love of life itself.   We are still fragile, and pots, even when full can still crack or break but we can be repaired, remoulded with the strength our potter God gives us, and with the treasure we hold within us we can be sure that this will never break away from us.

—————————————————————————————————————————————–

A legend tells how, at the beginning of time, God resolved to hide himself within his own creation. 

As God was wondering how best to do this, the angels gathered round him. “I want to hide myself in my creation” he told them. “I need to find a place that is not too easily discovered, for it is in their search for me that my creatures will grow in spirit and in understanding” ‘Why don’t you hide yourself deep in their earth?’ the first angel said.  God pondered for a while then replied” No. It will not be long before they learn how to mine the earth and discover al the treasures it contains.  They will discover too quickly and they will not have had enough time to do their growing”

‘Why don’t you hide yourself on their moon’ a second angel suggested. God thought about this idea for a while and then replied “No. It will take a little longer but before too long they will learn how to fly through space.  They will arrive on the moon and explore its secrets and they will discover me too soon, before they have had enough time to do their growing”.  The angels were at a loss to know what hiding places to suggest. There was a long silence.  ‘I know’ piped up one angel finally. ’Why don’t you hide yourself within their own hearts? They will never think of looking there!’  “That’s it!” said God delighted to have found the perfect hiding place. And so it is that God hides secretly deep within the heart of everyone of God’s creatures, until that creature has grown enough in spirit and understanding to risk the journey into the secret core of its own being.  And there, the creature discovers its creator, and is joined to God for all eternity.

Taken from Wisdom stories compiled by Margaret Silf