Welcome to Mary’s month of May. The month when everything in the countryside, and of course our gardens, bursts into colour. Life in the hedgerows is beginning to awaken from the long winter months, and the birds are returning from their winter break in Africa – my swallows arrived on 4th April (Easter Day) and flew straight into the nest they made four years ago. The trees are in bud and gradually turning green, and this spring the flowers are looking splendid.
For over 700 years, the month of May has been dedicated to Mary, and we join with her in celebration of the glorious Resurrection of Christ. Traditionally, Mary is honoured as the ‘Queen of May’, and throughout the western world parishes have often crowned an image of the Blessed Virgin Mary with flowers (often Hawthorn also called May Blossom or Spring Rose). This ceremonial crowning is to signify her as ‘Queen of Heaven’ and the ‘Mother of God Incarnate’. Although this practice lapsed in the 1970’s, it is now making a comeback. We look forward to its return here at S. Mary’s. Between Easter and Pentecost we sing the Regina Caeli (Queen of Heaven):
(sung to the tune of ‘Jesus Christ is risen today, Alleluia)
Joy to thee, O Queen of Heaven, Alleluia!
He whom thou wast meet to bear, Alleluia!
As he promised hath arisen, Alleluia!
Pour for us to God thy prayer, Alleluia!
There are many celebrations throughout May, one of the most important is the great Feast of Pentecost – 23rd May (the birthday of the Church). Pentecost means the fiftieth day, which represents the fifty days of Easter. In the Acts of the Apostles 2: 1-11 the disciples were huddled in the upper room, afraid of the Jews and terrified of the unknown. At the Last Supper Jesus told the apostles that he was leaving them. He said, “It is for your own good that I go away, because unless I go, the Spirit will not come to you, but if I go I will send him to you.” Jesus had to go – it was important that he left his apostles to carry on without him. Only when the Holy Spirit came upon them are they transformed from ordinary people into fearless missionaries.
A prayer for Pentecost: Breathe in me, Holy Spirit, that I may think what is holy. Move me, Holy Spirit, that I may do what is holy. Attract me, Holy Spirit, that I may love what is holy. Strengthen me, Holy Spirit, that I may guard what is holy. Guard me, Holy Spirit, that I may keep what is holy.
(S. Augustine of Hippo – 354 – 430 AD)
All around, the cycle of the seasons is reminding us of fresh starts, new growth, renewal and optimism. After a year of much tragedy and sadness, equally at a personal, community and national level, the reawakening natural world tilts our heads and hearts upwards a little, offering hope of different days ahead. And the gradual easing of this long hard winter lockdown coupled with the amazing vaccination programme give real reason to believe that we can emerge from our isolations with a new found confidence unlike over the past year.
And so nature and science are signposting positive change to us. Does that resonate with you? Are you feeling confident about a return to normality? Or has the last year and all it has brought to our lives, shaken you a bit and made you feel less certain, less assured and less convinced that everything can be picked up again where we left off? You would most certainly not be alone if some of those feelings ring true for you.
But this month, as we emerge from the reflection and for some, the denial, of Lent, we have an altogether different signpost of renewal and hope, true for each and every one of us, no matter our circumstances. For it is Easter that we celebrate at St Mary’s and across our Parish, the remarkable signpost of an empty cross, upon which Jesus had taken on all the isolation of our wrongdoing and in doing so, brought about our reconciliation through grace and love with God. Because just as surely as there is the dark winter of Good Friday and the sorrow, loss and fear of the crucifixion, so there is also even more surely the bright new first light of Easter morning, the start of something entirely new – the clean slate – brought to us by Jesus risen from the dead and the tomb that had closed him in.
In our Christian lives and in our communities, every year we celebrate the great mystery and joy of Easter. Can this signpost of God’s great love for us not be more true and relevant this year, as we tentatively emerge from our long Covid lockdown? And the assurance and certainty of the message of renewal, of hope and of a fresh start in the Easter story, equips us all to believe that as nature and science remind us, God has made all things new (Isaiah 43:19).
“Now the green blade riseth, from the buried grain,
Wheat that in the dark earth many days has lain;
Love lives again, that with the dead has been:
Love is come again like wheat that springeth green”
Watch out for announcements about the possibilities for return to public worship at St Mary’s and across the Parish and always remember that the church is open for private prayer and reflection each day. A very happy Easter from all at St Mary’s to you.
This new village event dates from May 2018, when our Community Garden at the rear of the church was opened by the Archdeacon of Hastings. We resolved at that time to stage an Open Day and Craft Fair each year during the second week of May.
The 2020 event was all ‘good to go’, with some new local sponsors and a wide range of craft stalls and exhibitors all booked. We were of course not able to go ahead due to the lockdown restrictions.
So what are the plans for this year? We have set a provisional date for Saturday 14th May.
I have recently contacted all concerned, and explained that soon after Easter we will review the situation as regards government guidance, and also conduct our own risk assessment. As the event largely takes place out of doors, the prospects are perhaps more encouraging. Everyone seems to understand that we have to ‘wait and see’, but also that a large scale event like ours needs a fair amount of forward planning by all concerned.
If we are able to go ahead, we will have a working forge, a potter’s wheel, and craft stalls in the church hall and garden. Wally the Steam engine will be coming down from Tinker’s Park, along with the miniature railway and fairground organ. The popular Harvey’s Beer Tent will again be in business up in the Top Field. The church will be looking its best, and there will be an hour’s organ recital at some point during the afternoon.
We welcome two new local business sponsors this year – Crusader Vehicles and Weald Packaging.
So at this stage it’s ‘fingers crossed’, with more updates to follow.
The following is my tribute to Norman Longley who died in December.
Norman Charles Longley
23rd November 1933 – 12th December 2020
Norman was a very private man and little is known of his early life. He and his wife Joan spent most of their married life in Carshalton, where they raised their daughters Caroline and Sarah. Norman’s career was in banking and it wasn’t until he retired that the family moved to Ridgewood. Having been loyal members of their local church in Carshalton, Joan and Norman were keen to find a spiritual home in East Sussex and were thrilled when they discovered S. Mary’s. They quickly immersed themselves into parish life, becoming active members of the PCC and the Walsingham Cell. Norman used his banking skills as Parish Treasurer and took his duties as Deputy Churchwarden very seriously.
I first met Norman when I moved to the parish in 2009, and my feet weren’t allowed to touch the ground! He got me involved with all aspects of life at
S. Mary’s, and I eventually joined him as a fellow Deputy Churchwarden. I have him to thank for assisting me in the process of reintroducing pilgrimages to
Joan and Norman had been almost inseparable, yet when Joan died in 2015 Norman seemed to cope remarkably well. Despite his own failing health, he was always positive and cheerful, never more so when talking about his grandchildren. Norman believed that life is meant to be shared with others, and that life is at its brightest and best when lived in the service of others. Service is love made visible. Norman encapsulated that service and faithfulness, even enquiring after the health of others during the first ‘lockdown’, when his own life was drawing to a close.
Sadly, we were unable to fulfil Norman’s wishes for a Funeral Mass in church. A Requiem Mass will be held at S. Mary’s as soon as restrictions are lifted.
May he rest in peace.
We have a vaccine! Rejoice and be merry – but not just yet! Christmas came and we celebrated the best we could under the circumstances. The year 2020 has gone, and will probably go down in history as a year we would wish to forget, even though it will be remembered for many different reasons. March (and again in November) saw the closure of our churches for the first time since the early 13th century. I was moved to read an article recently, from a priest who said:
‘When I closed and locked the doors of the church I knelt down in a pew and cried. People come hear to pray, to give thanks, to share their fears and their joys. But now the House of God is locked up and there are no services there…… I think of the day when I shall take the key and unlock the doors, and the people will come in again – and they will see that all along, the light was burning in the darkness. That God was there with us all the time’.
The perpetual Blessed Sanctuary lamp at S. Mary’s continues to burn in the darkness as a sign of the Presence of Our Lord, and in the knowledge that He has not deserted us, nor we Him.
Fr. Hope Patten was assistant curate here at S. Mary’s from 1919 to 1921. This month we celebrate the centenary of his appointment as Parish Priest of
S. Mary’s, Walsingham in Norfolk, where he became instrumental in restoring the Shrine of Our Lady. During his time in Buxted he worked closely with the nuns of The Community of The Blessed Virgin Mary; helping the homeless, and all those suffering as a result of the last pandemic – 1918-20. In those days there was no NHS, but one could imagine that after four years of war the local people were only too happy to ‘Clap for the Nuns’ who were working tirelessly to help relieve those suffering from ‘Spanish Flu’.
Due to the restrictions last month we were unable to sing our favourite Carols, only hum them through our masks. However, although we may not be at the end of this terrible pandemic, with a vaccine, we are, I feel sure, at the beginning of the end. I am reminded of the chorus from the Christmas Carol ‘God rest you merry Gentlemen’:
O tidings of comfort and joy,
comfort and joy!
O tidings of comfort and joy!
May Jesus Christ and the hope he brings, give you ‘comfort and joy’ in 2021.
Elizabeth Winifred Burditt
It is with sadness that we announce the death of Elizabeth Burditt on 8th December 2020, at the age of 99. Elizabeth had been a stalwart of S. Mary’s for many years and played an active part in Church life, the Walsingham Cell and the wider parish.
She will be sorely missed. May she rest in peace and rise in glory.
Elizabeth’s funeral will be held at S. Mary’s on Wednesday 6th January at 1.00 p.m.
However, at the time of writing it is anticipated that numbers attending will be limited. Please see the parish news letter for that week.