Churches across the parish are closed except for private prayer, but our Sunday worship continues via Zoom

Since the 5th November our churches have been closed for services of public worship however they do remain open for individual private prayer and please visit the individual church websites for more information on opening times.

However our worship continues virtually with live Zoom worship every Sunday at 10am, if you would like to join us then please use the link below:

10am Worship on Zoom

Meeting ID: 860 9144 4899

Passcode: 986891

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:

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 are now 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

As the majority of our children are currently being educated at home the Godly Play website has lots of other 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 ( 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)

The Advent Calendar

We are fast approaching Advent, which has probably been observed since the fourth century.

Children often have an Advent Calendar eagerly enjoying the ‘treat’ behind each window, and waiting impatiently for what is in store the next day, counting off the days until Christmas. There are even advent calendars for adults now with a tempting gift behind each of the 24 windows, be it chocolate, alcohol, pork crackling or even precious gems. So many of them have gifts for ourselves within them, when maybe this is the time to give to others, rather than ourselves,  as Jesus gave himself for us?

 If you look hard, you can still find calendars that have Scripture verses behind each window, unfolding day by day the story of God made man, Jesus coming to earth to be the sacrifice for us and to make us right with God. However when looking for a ‘Christian advent calendar’ free image for this blog, my search yielded no pictures at all. In the image here, we have a few angels , and a star, but all mixed up with Father Christmas  and lots of presents.

Originally, Advent was a time when converts to Christianity prepared themselves for baptism, and then during the Middle Ages Advent it became associated with preparation for the Second Coming of Jesus.

 In early days Advent lasted from November 11, the feast of St. Martin, until Christmas Day and was considered a pre-Christmas season similar to Lent when Christians took more time than usual to devote themselves to prayer and fasting.

In the last fifty years, Advent has also come to be recognised as a time of anticipating the Nativity, the birth of Jesus as a baby here on earth.  As we look back over two thousand years to his first coming, we remember also His promise to return. A short reference to the second coming is contained in the Nicene Creed which we regularly declare in our church services:  “He [Jesus] shall come again in glory to judge the living and the dead; and His kingdom shall have no end.” (Based on 1 Corinthians 15:23).

Christmas still has an allure for so many people even in a society where it is empty of any real meaning. It is as celebrated today as it ever was in past generations. Even as I write this week, plans and details are being thrashed out across our four nations, for people to get together in a restricted form over Christmas – because the season matters to so many, for a variety of reasons.

The most amazing fact in history is that God himself became one of us, God who created the world in all its awe and wonder, and who created all human beings, God himself came in to this world for our salvation.

The heart of Christmas is supernatural and we will be celebrating the long-foretold arrival of Jesus.

Perhaps we can mark the days of Advent and make each one count, even in the midst of the busyness, or especially because of the busyness and bustle all around us?

Why not prayerfully ask Jesus what He is calling you to this Advent, in your specific season of life, during this month of your faith journey, and during this run-up to Christmas that is so different from others we have known?

Advent is a season of waiting, an invitation to slow down, to hear God in the midst of the lights and sparkle, the shopping and the traditions. I find an Advent candle helpful, the sort that I light each day and  where beside each number is one of the names of Jesus to reflect on.

Whatever traditions you embrace, why not  start with a simple submitting the offering of your days to the Lord?

Allow Him to guide you toward Him this Advent season, just as He guided the shepherds to the manger, and the wise men to the place where they could worship Him.

God longs for us to take time with Him.

May this Advent season enable us to find Jesus more of a reality in our lives.

The Fragrance of Love


I recently read the story in Matthew’s gospel about the woman who came to Jesus while he was at the home of Simon the Leper. This woman, had an alabaster jar of very expensive perfume which she poured over Jesus’ head as he was reclining at the table. The disciples were indignant and felt that this was a great waste, “It could have been sold and the money given to the poor” they said. But Jesus said “this was a lovely thing that she has done for me”.

I wonder who Simon the Leper was? The name Simon was very common in Jesus’ time so “Simons” were called by something else to identify them, Simon the Pharisee, Simon of Cyrene to name just two.  The fact that Simon the Leper was living in Bethany in his own house where Jesus was visiting implies that he was healed of Leprosy.  I wonder if he was the one leper who returned from the twelve who were healed to thank Jesus, but in any case, it is very likely that he was in fact healed by Jesus.  And the woman, there is speculation among theologians as to who she was but the bible just refers to her as a woman – could she have been related to Simon, his sister, his wife?  Whatever her relationship was with Simon she had cause to be so grateful to Jesus, so much so that she literally poured out all that she had upon him.  The very expensive oil would have been stored up in the alabaster jar as a saving, it would have been sold for her needs, an insurance in a sense as we might understand it.  So imagine what this meant, all that she had she gave with love to Jesus and he knew and recognised this for what it was.

 The scent of the perfume would have filled the whole house and I imagine all who were there, whenever they smelled this particular perfume again would always link it to that occasion in Simon’s house.

 The scent or smell of something can in a moment transport us to a place, a person or event that evokes a memory.  Whenever I smell Lily of the Valley it immediately reminds me of my dear foster mother who looked after me when I was a girl, when my mother was in hospital for two years.   I’m sure we all have our own particular scent or smell which bring back memories.  

The scent of something of beauty can lift our spirits, a rose, the smell of autumn leaves, freshly mown grass, all given for our pleasure by our Creator God. To pause and give thanks for these simple but lovely pleasures will gladden God’s heart too.

As we perhaps reflect on that wonderful outpouring of love and thankfulness in the form of the precious oil by the woman in the story, we can again give Jesus our most grateful thanks for all we have, we are all blessed by God’s grace; and that is enough to give thanks for.


Remembrance Day

Flower, Flanders Poppy, Red, Blossom, Bloom, Bud
Flanders Poppy Fields

On this Remembrance Day I thought I would share with you the short message that I recorded for the schools within our parish which could be shown during their acts of remembrance. It asks the children to think carefully about what they will be remembering during their two minutes silence on the eleventh hour of the eleventh day of the eleventh month. So if you are intending to observe the silence today at 11am I would ask you to do the same.

Father Forgive…..

Father Forgive
Father Forgive
The altar of the old Cathedral Church of St Michael that was destroyed during the Coventry Blitz in 1940 now bears a charred wooden cross with Jesus’ words “Father forgive” carved in the wall behind.
Photo © David Dixon (cc-by-sa/2.0)

Remembrance Sunday is almost upon us and it will be hugely different this year with all the complexities of coronavirus guidelines and procedures, but this does not stop us commemorating this traumatic and unenviable part of our history in our hearts and minds as we rightly remember those whose lives were lost or shattered by conflicts of the past and pray for peace in our world today.   

But let us just for a moment put aside the worries of coronavirus and remember that if we profess ourselves to be Christian, we are also called to be peacemakers.

One of our neighbouring dioceses that of Coventry is at the forefront of ‘peace making’ in our world, with its Cathedral’s ministry of reconciliation. Behind the high altar of the bombed out remains of the medieval cathedral are inscribed the words ‘Father Forgive’. These words are used as the response in the Coventry Litany of Reconciliation which is said daily in the new cathedral, I commend them to you as we remember all wars and conflicts that have taken place and continue to rage in our world and I invite you to join with peace makers throughout the world, in praying this litany of reconciliation:

All have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God.

The hatred which divides nation from nation, race from race, class from class,

Father Forgive.

The covetous desires of people and nations to possess what is not their own,

The greed which exploits the work of human hands and lays waste the earth,

Father Forgive.

Our envy of the welfare and happiness of others,

Father Forgive.

Our indifference to the plight of the imprisoned, the homeless, the refugee,

Father Forgive.

The lust which dishonours the bodies of men, women and children,

Father Forgive.

The pride which leads us to trust in ourselves and not in God,

Father Forgive.

Be kind to one another, tender-hearted, forgiving one another, as God in Christ forgave you.

Saints are people that the sun shines through

Chester Cathedral, Saints Day Stained Glass Windows
Chester Cathedral, Saints Day Stained Glass Windows © Copyright Gary Rogers and licensed for reuse under this Creative Commons Licence.

This Sunday’s Service of Holy Communion led by Revd Mark Ackford is from Holy Trinity Church Lane End. In his reflection Revd Mark delves into how we can all be Saints with a small ‘s’ people through which the sun shines through, sun being Christ the light of the world, as we celebrate All Saints Day. A video of the service is below

The order of service which includes the readings and reflection can be downloaded below

God and Halloween – A partnership made in heaven?

Many thanks to Toby Long for this blog entry. If you would like to write something for the blog then please submit it to the Revd Mark Ackford.

When I was ten years old, I was fortunate to visit a British family who had emigrated to Atlanta, USA. This trip fell over Halloween. Growing up in England I knew what Halloween was, or I thought I did, but had never experienced it quite as intensely as in America. My lasting memory was a hastily made mummy costume from a toilet roll, trick-or-treat-ing and a bucket brimming with ‘candy’ at the end. Quite fun to be honest.

So, what is Halloween? Sometimes Halloween is confused with Samhain which is a Gaelic festival marking the end of the harvest season and the beginning of winter or the ‘darker half’ of the year. The word Halloween dates to about 1745 and is of Christian origin. The word Halloween means Saints’ evening and comes from a Scottish term for All Hallows’ Eve (the evening before All Hallows’ Day). Over time, (All) Hallow(s) E(v)en evolved into Halloween.

Today, celebrating Halloween is seen by many in our communities as being up there with the likes of Easter, Christmas and Mothering Sunday. Halloween related sales in our supermarkets would support this. Perhaps not what the church would want?

Let’s consider what we are celebrating and what Halloween is all about. Is the celebration uplifting? Is Halloween pure, is it lovely, commendable, or of fun? Saint Paul in writing to the Philippians says, ‘In conclusion, my friends, fill your minds with those things that are good and that deserve praise: things that are true, noble, right, pure, lovely, and honourable.’ (Philippians 4:8). Together, Paul’s words and celebrating dark and evil things don’t really go hand in hand. Children dressing up as witches or werewolves is not the same as practicing dark sorcery. Pumpkin carving, Strictly’s Halloween dancing week and the odd toffee apple are all harmless. But, as Christians it is vital, we express our commitment to God and the example we have in Jesus. The relevance today of Jesus’ teachings is at the heart of this. Created by God, a pumpkin is an amazing fruit. It grows quickly and easily, keeps for months and can feed many as it grows large and is full of seeds to plant and cultivate the following year.

Taking the time to speak to children about the positive elements of Halloween is important. Equally, we must focus our energy on doing positive things and on God’s love for everyone and our world. Why would we want to ‘celebrate’ something evil? The Bible is overflowing with the imagery of Jesus as the Light of the World. Perhaps focusing on the positive themes of Jesus is more important. Many churches and Church schools would normally hold a Saints party instead of a Halloween party. Although some of the stories about saints are somewhat gruesome, this makes the point well. Celebrate the positive not the negative.

When I am carving my homegrown pumpkins this year, I will think about what Matthew and John tell us in their Gospels, ‘Let your light shine before others, that they may see your good deeds and glorify your Father in heaven’(Matthew 15:16). ‘The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it’ (John 1:5). The cross and beams of light carved in my pumpkin might look a bit out of place next to fanged monsters and owls. So what? The darkness has not overcome it!