Lent is the traditional time of fasting, prayer and charitable work for Christians. It is a way of preparing to celebrate the Lord’s Passion and death, so that by coming to terms with the sin in our lives, which killed Jesus, we may share more fully in the new life he won for us by conquering death.
Lent starts on Ash Wednesday (14th February), when ashes are blessed and put on the people’s heads at Mass. Dust and ashes are a traditional sign of mourning and repentance, since they remind us of the dust from which we were made and to which we return at death. We remember our mortality and weakness so that we may receive God’s grace.
Lent is kept for forty days and nights representing our Lord’s fasting in the desert. In the Gospel reading for the first Sunday of Lent we hear that Jesus was tempted by the devil, but remained faithful to God’s will. A temptation is not a sin. It puts us at a crossroads – do we give way or take a stand on the side of conscience? Lent is an invitation to renew our faith. Do we take the opportunity of a fresh beginning or do we leave things as they are? Do we take a step forward or do we slip backwards? As a Christian, there is no standing still.
The devil does his best work by discouragement. Family quarrels, difficulties at work, the break-up of relationships, can narrow our vision to look only at the problems and fail to bring God into the bigger picture. We may be tempted to give up responsibility for ourselves, our future and to see ourselves as victims. Christians through the ages have overcome this temptation not so much by trying to force themselves into a different state of mind but by sincere and trustful prayer to Jesus. As the letter to the Hebrews says, “because he has himself been through temptation he is able to help others who are tempted”.
Direct our heart to you, O Lord, so that we may follow you more closely this Lent and all the days of our life; in all our needs we turn to you for the help of your grace, and ask you to give us strength to work for the things we ask for in faith, through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.
(Prayer adapted from Thomas a Kempis)
On a recent train trip I noticed the very attractive picture panel in the station waiting room which depicts ‘Buxted People & Places’. St Mary’s is represented by our recently discovered altar murals, and by a shot of the sign which welcomes visitors to the Upper Churchyard and Community Garden.
The Upper Churchyard comprises the graves on the Rectory boundary and to the rear of the church. These are mostly early to mid 20th century graves, with few signs of them being tended by families.
We maintain a closely mown area behind the east wall, bounded by rose hedging, which hopefully will become a proper Garden of Remembrance with seating. I mow this area with a donated small domestic mower. The front areas, Community Garden and the path up to it are maintained regularly by our contractor Jason, and will remain so.
There have though not been the financial resources to pay the contractor to keep the large remaining area under control. In 2024 we will reluctantly be asking the Rector and PCC to consider whether or not the Upper Churchyard should be officially ‘wilded’.
The murals are in the Arts & Crafts style and date from the late Victorian period. It is hard to imagine what was going through the mind of the incumbent in the early 1950s when he decided to obliterate them with a can of white paint. We have a professional restoration assessment now complete and costed but sadly it will only be possible to preserve fragments.
We have now held five Open Days combined with a Craft Fair each May, to celebrate the role of St Mary’s in the centre of the village and to mark the establishment of the Community Garden in 2018. You may remember that this was combined with evening fireworks in 2022. Due to a number of factors, we are unable to continue with this large scale event, but would like to thank all of the volunteers, exhibitors and business sponsors who contributed to the five very successful events held from 2018 to 2023.
We plan to revive the ‘Music at St Mary’s’ programme, so look out for events on these pages and elsewhere. In addition, we await the 2024 programme of the Farnham Maltings Professional Touring Theatre. Those of you who saw ‘Brilliance’ or ‘Mountain Music’ in the Church Hall will vouch for the excellence of their performance and material.
Also look out for a revival of ‘Buxted Pre-Loved’ which we also hope to bring back at some stage in 2024. So sort through your bric-a-brac, small household items, saleable clothing, books and toys!
Last but not least, a very Happy New Year to all our readers!
As Christmas approaches, I am again re-printing part of one of Iain Lindsay’s many thoughtful pieces for this column. Iain was our Deputy Churchwarden, and passed on in February 2022. A rowan tree grows in the Church Hall garden in his memory.
In the church, there is a wonderful preparatory period leading up to Christmas each year which we call Advent. This time throughout December encourages us to stop, reflect and listen as we anticipate the gift of the birth of Jesus, God with us. This is an opportunity to do a number of things, any and all of which can give us an entirely fresh look at Christmas.
- Reflect on what is going on in your life, what is good and sustains you and what is a hindrance and would be better thrown off. God wants you to live life to the full. Ask God for peace and stillness amongst all the seasonal distractions to have clarity of mind and thought and to allow God to speak to your heart.
- Go the extra mile with goodness for others. Not just to those you know, although that is always needed, but also to the stranger and those whose lives we rarely see because they are marginalised and forgotten. In Advent more than any time, share and care in the most practical of ways. Jesus birth in a stable reminds us that there is none too low, too untouchable or too unreachable for his love.
- Create every day an attitude of expectation and thanks. Expectation for the good things to come in the season and ultimately God becoming one of us in Jesus. And thanks for the little things as well as the grand. To instil a mindset of gratitude can overturn the most bleak of days. Not to be Pollyanna about everything (there are many hard things to endure) but to count blessings too and acknowledge what is good. It changes lives.
- Focus on what really matters and don’t become overwrought by the doing and the lists. Take time for one another, take time for yourself and take time for God.
Christmas doesn’t have to be a mad rush: Jesus came silent to the world. Christmas doesn’t have to be about the best gifts and over-indulgence: Jesus born in a stable was attended by shepherds and livestock. But Christmas can be all about celebration and love, of each other and in thanks to God. Give yourself that, the very best of gifts.
Our Christmas Day Mass at St Mary’s is at 10.30.
A bit of revision was required for myself about three important dates in the Christian calendar at this time of year, which can sometimes get muddled and confused.
All Hallows Eve
All Hallows’ Eve falls on 31st October each year, and is the day before All Hallows’ Day on 1st November, also known as All Saints’ Day in the Christian calendar. The Church traditionally held a vigil on All Hallows’ Eve when worshippers would prepare themselves with prayers and fasting prior to the feast day itself.
There is very little sign of prayers and fasting these days though, but plenty of pumpkin lanterns, ghouls and ghosties. All harmless fun perhaps, but am I alone in slightly resenting this North American import and all of the commercial merchandising that goes with it? It was unknown here when I was a child.
All Hallows or All Saints Day
Every year, Roman Catholics and many other Christians around the world observe All Saints Day, which honours all of the Saints of the church deemed to have attained heaven. In the Eastern Orthodox Church, All Saints Day is observed on the first Sunday after Pentecost. On this Feast Day we call to mind all of the widely differing Saints and Martyrs down the ages, and invite their intercession regarding the welfare of our own souls and for the affairs of our earthly world.
On All Saints Day the Church also remembers the countless numbers not canonized, but who have put their faith in the Word made flesh.
All Souls Day
In Western Christianity, including Roman Catholicism and certain parts of Lutheranism and Anglicanism, All Souls’ Day is the third day of Allhallowtide, after All Saints’ Day and All Hallows’ Eve.
All Souls Day is marked by prayers for the faithful departed. In many churches the congregation are invited to name a person who has passed on, and prayers are offered for that person by the whole congregation. I have always found this reading of names to be particularly moving.
The marking of All Souls Day has not been without controversy in the Anglican church, where the practice of prayers for the departed was at times condemned from the pulpit as being ‘ritualistic’ or a ‘Roman’ import. It is interesting that the controversy raged particularly in the years following the cataclysmic losses of the First World War, where the bereaved were often searching for ways in which to remain connected to lost loved ones.
Our All Souls Day service will be on Thursday 2nd November at 10.30 with a list in the church a week before to name those faithful departed for whom we wish the congregation to pray.
Our efforts are once again being directed towards musical matters. We have a marvellous acoustic at St Mary’s, and you may remember the ‘Music at St Mary’s’ programme that ran before the lockdown restrictions put paid to us and indeed to all other live performance.
We had hoped to get back on track in October with the chamber choir ‘Fine Chants’ who did a very successful concert for us back in 2016. Sadly they were unable to pull together a full choir, and had to withdraw the provisional date they had given us. We have though been put in touch with a couple of other local singing groups, and our thanks go to Tally at Ashdown Forest Living magazine in this respect.
We like to create the complete concert experience, so at all the events there will be an informal hour before the concert to have a glass of something along with home-made buffet food brought to the table by members of the congregation. Likewise there will be a chance to mingle and chat after the performance.
In addition to choral music, we have other ideas up our sleeve, and BM readers will be the first know what transpires!
We are thinking of ways to showcase local talent indoors as we did outside at this year’s Open Day, when we had sessions from Simon Joslin on vocals and guitar, and Simon Mellor playing jazz piano. His talented daughter Hermoine sang repertoire by Kurt Weill and Leonard Cohen. All of this would transfer well to an indoor concert setting.
If you are a musician living locally and would be interested in teaming up with us, then do contact me.