Over the last few months due to ill health and the need to shield, I have been unable to attend worship weekly at St Mary’s. Now whilst it is most certainly true that God is not confirmed to bricks and mortar within church walls and it is perfectly possible to worship and pray anywhere and anytime, there is something uniquely important, necessary even and nourishing in community worship and in celebration of sharing bread and wine in the Eucharist, to remember the death and resurrection of Jesus and God’s good grace, at our Sunday Mass.
There is solid guidance on this. King David, the psalmist said:
I rejoiced with those who said to me,
“Let us go to the house of the Lord.” (Psalm 122, v1)
And Jesus said in Matthew 18, v20: “For where two or three gather in my name, there am I with them.”
But for many it can be challenging. People say: Sunday is a day of rest; a day to take time out from the hectic days of the week beforehand; to spend time with family and friends. Well yes, it is and can be all of these things. It is good to have a day set apart from the busyness of our lives throughout the week. However, making time for God on Sunday is also a means of personal renewal, time to refocus, of reconnection not just with God but also with those in our community, of putting our week past and ahead in context, of laying bare and before God our happiness, our anxiety, our hopes and fears for what is going to happen in the days to come.
Worship can be all manner of things depending on how you feel when you come together in church at our Parish services. We are so changeable, and understandably so, given all the things that have happened to us over the past two years. But the remarkable thing is that whether we are low or upbeat, sad or content, God is the same yesterday, today and forever. Our God is dependable and true and ready to accept us in whatever state we find ourselves, quiet as we listen to the readings and prayers, doubting and uncertain if all we are hearing can possibly true, mouthing our prayers in the earnest hope and trust that they will be answered, in ways we may never expect or understand. God welcomes us all into his church; there is no membership criteria, “Sunday best” or goody-two-shoes, only an open heart and willingness to hear what God has to offer us and respond.
So yes, whilst I say my prayers and read the bible on my own, I do miss out if I don’t make church on Sunday. My loss truly.
There is a lot going on in March and in the lead up to Easter. We call it Lent but its just as much about reflection as it is about giving up things. Why not come and explore worship together at St Mary’s or any of our Parish churches. You will always receive a warm hello and a friendly smile. And God will be there.
In this second piece based on the ‘Tufton Tracts’, I consider the use and meaning of candles in church, beginning with ‘Lamps and Lights in the Bible’ –
‘In the New Testament Jesus said ‘I am the light of the world’ (John 8:12). There is an obvious need to help people to see, both visually and spiritually. We see light as good and darkness as evil. Even when modern lighting became available, the Church continued to use candles as an important part of worship. The living flame is a powerful symbol of the presence of Christ – the light of the world.’
In the Anglo Catholic tradition there are particular practices making use of this powerful symbol of the living flame.
The Reserved Sacrament
A lamp or candle indicates that the Blessed Sacrament is ‘reserved’ in the church. At St Mary’s the Blessed Sacrament is reserved in the Walsingham Chapel, with a lamp burning continuously above. I found the light of this little lamp very consoling when I was doing a lot of outdoor work to prepare for the restoration of the Top Field at St Mary’s (now the Community Garden). As the sun went down, the lamp cast its light against the stained glass of the chapel window and created an atmosphere of complete peace.
A Stand For Prayer Candles
We have one of these in the ante-chamber to the Walsingham Chapel, and people often light a candle for a loved one, or to accompany other forms of prayer. When they leave the church, the candle continues to burn. Those lighting candles may also ask a Saint to pray with or for them.
How Many Candles on the Altar?
Traditionally, the presence of six candles on the altar indicates the church is of the Anglo- Catholic tradition. Two or four would usually indicate a ‘central churchmanship’ or Evangelical form of worship.
The full set of six ‘Tufton Tracts’ are available free of charge on the wooden rotary leaflet holder in the ante-chamber to the Walsingham Chapel.
This year’s event will take place on Saturday 21st May, with a wide range of stalls in both the Church Hall and Garden. The church will be looking its best, with exhibitions by local societies and the church organ providing musical accompaniment.
The Top Field will once again host a live band and the steam miniature railway. Last year it was too wet for a Bouncy Castle, but if fine we hope to have one this year. Last but not least, the Harvey’s Beer Tent and barbecue will be in full swing throughout.
The daytime event is from 12.00 until 6.00, and after a bit of a clear up we will proceed to Round Two! This is a dusk display of fireworks generously provided and supervised by our local business sponsors Festive Illuminations.
Most of last year’s stallholders have re-booked, but there may be a couple of outside pitches still available. If you are interested, drop me an e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org. The pitch fee is £20, and you will need to provide a table. Also wise to have a pop up gazebo or similar in case of wet weather.
The perfect family day out, on your doorstep!
Like so many people, the Rector and Churchwardens have been monitoring the daily developments on Covid and taken (and been given) a number of opinions from around the parish on what is (and is not) appropriate for the churches to be doing with Covid. We appreciate that there is a wide range of views and we cannot please all the people all the time ….
However, our priority has been – and will remain – the protection of those who come to church, and hence we will naturally err on the side of caution. To that end we have agreed the following arrangements “for the moment” :
- We are asking all the key personnel at services; minister, choir, wardens, etc. to take a lateral flow test before the service and, if there are any concerns, not attend. While this is not a requirement, we would encourage all parishioners to consider testing before attending services.
- The latest guidance has mandated that masks should be worn in places of worship, and we ask that you comply with this. If you forget your mask, we should have a supply in each church. We know that some people are exempt from wearing masks, and we will respect this, but you may wish to be particularly aware of distancing from others.
- We ask that – in our churches – you social distance as much as you can. Please respect that other people’s view of an acceptable social distance may be a greater gap than yours. If you want to chat after the service, please can you do this outside.
- Whilst we do not expect that any of our services will reach the levels of attendance in “pre-pandemic” times, please accept that we might have to refuse entry if numbers are deemed, by the rector and / or duty wardens, to be too high.
- You should also use hand sanitiser on arrival, either your own or from a supply that will be at the entrance.
- Whilst we heat our churches (to a lesser or greater extent) we will be trying to ensure that ventilation is still present (apart from any natural draughts that come with old buildings). You may want to ensure that you wear a coat, although we don’t want to waste the heating.
- The guidance allows singing and we know that for many people singing with masks on is inconvenient (and can lead to difficulties). Some people find the basic disposable mask is slightly easier to sing through, than the full linen ones, but you may have your own preference for protection. If you are at all concerned, then please sit either at the rear of our churches, or at the side.
Service of 9 lessons and carols
Because of the need to restrict numbers in attendance, this service is – we are sorry – only for those who have already booked, either using the listings in the three churches or by contacting the churchwardens / Rector.
For those attending, you can use the hotel’s garden car park (first on the left after St Margaret’s), in addition to parking at the church. Please do avoid parking on the verges if this might make the driveway too narrow for those heading for the hotel.
Crib Services – CANCELLED
Given the high occurrence of Covid amongst school children in both the village schools, and around, as well as quite natural fears of infection so close to Christmas, we have decided that we are unable to hold crib services this year. We did look at a range of options, from multiple ticketed services to outdoor events, but there was a reluctance to commit. Our thanks to those who tried to help.
First Eucharist of Christmas
This service will start at 11:00 pm on Christmas Eve, so that we end on Christmas Day. We are keeping this service open to all who wish to attend, but will monitor numbers.
As with the Service of 9 Lessons and Carols, parking is available at the hotel as well as around the church.
Christmas Day services
The services on Christmas Day are :
9:00 St Mark’s Family Communion
10:00 St Margaret’s Family Worship
10:30 St Mary’s Christmas Mass
As with all our services, we will monitor numbers as they arrive, but attendance in recent years suggests that numbers should be manageable.
We try to keep our churches open during daylight hours, for personal prayer and reflection. If you are unable or unwilling to attend a formal service, why not drop into one of our churches and spend a bit of time reflecting on the true meaning of Christmas?
Each church will have a crib in it.
We will probably close our churches after the services on Christmas Day (to allow the duty wardens to relax), but on all the other days they should be open.
First and foremost, all good wishes for a happy and prosperous 2022 from us here at St Mary’s. We enter the new year with some essential restoration to the fabric now complete, and a regular pattern of worship with Fr Pete Molloy and Fr David Milnes sharing the role of celebrant. We have welcomed some new members of the congregation in 2021, but also sadly miss some long standing members who have passed on.
Like all churches, we have notices and information on display. We like to keep this to a minimum at St Mary’s, as too many leaflets are likely to overwhelm and be ignored. One set of leaflets that we keep permanently is the ‘Why?’ series produced by the Church Union. Wikipedia describes the Church Union as ‘an Anglo-Catholic advocacy organisation within the Church of England’. It dates back to the 19th century and has offices in Tufton Street in Westminster. So these are titled the ‘Tufton Leaflets’. There are six in all, dealing with aspects of worship which are associated with the Anglo-Catholic tradition.
We are often asked about the tradition and meaning of using incense as part of worship, and Leaflet No1 puts it far better than I can-
We try to offer the best of ourselves to God in worship. Worship involves all our senses. Light, colour, movement and music are important parts of our offering. Our ears hear the Word of God. Our mouths sing His praises. Our eyes see the colours of the Christian Year (purple, white, red and green) often set within a glorious church or cathedral. Through these scented clouds, our prayers and praises slowly rise to heaven, enfolded in perfume.
The leaflet goes on to list a number of references to incense in the Bible. Here are two of them-
Frankincense (incense) was one of the gifts given to the infant Jesus by the Three Wise Men (Matthew 23.11). It was a rare and precious gift for the new born King.
Incense is used to describe the worship of Heaven in picture language. The living creatures and the Elders fall before the Lamb of God ‘each holding a harp and golden bowls full of incense, which are the prayers of the Saints’ (Revelation 5.8).
I shall be taking a look at two more of the leaflets next month, and you can find all six in the Walsingham Chapel lobby on the rotating leaflet stand. The church is open all day during daylight hours.
At the time of writing we are putting the finishing touches to the Open Day & Craft Fair. The event is on Saturday 12th July from 12.00 until 6.00.
We will once again have exhibits and rides from Tinker’s Park, including Wally the Steam Engine and his beautifully restored wooden living van. The fairground organ will bid a tuneful welcome, and Margaret the miniature railway engine will be giving rides in the Top Field behind the church. The Top Field will also accommodate the Bouncy Jungle, the BBQ and the Beer & Wine Tent. We are joined this year by a folk group from Chailey, playing alongside the Beer Tent from 2.00 pm.
At the front of the church we will have David Skinner’s forge and Pete Holland from Heathfield with his potter’s wheel. The Church Hall, Hall Garden and the rear of the church will house a total of 22 stalls, selling a variety of craft related items. Tea, coffee and cake will be available in the Hall. Look out for cars of yesteryear, including two marvellous Morris Minors.
The church will be looking its best, and David Bailey will be playing our magnificent organ between 2.00 and 3.00. There are informative displays featuring the history of the church and the Community Garden Project, now completed and celebrated with the Open Day. Two local organisations, the Buxted Art Club and the Horticultural Society will also have displays in the church, with a firm message of ‘we are still here’.
Business sponsorship this year has been absolutely inspiring, including Crusader Vans, Weald Packaging, Rose Gas, the Buxted Inn and the Pig & Butcher. Bishop’s of Uckfield are sponsoring the BBQ, so you are guaranteed a top quality burger or sausage! Big names such as Waitrose have also stepped in.
Special thanks must go to the Trustees and volunteers at Tinker’s Park, who help us with the loan of equipment, event management expertise and hands-on help setting up the event and restoring the site afterwards.
With all of the site given over to stalls and exhibits, there will be no on-site parking. However, you will see signs pointing 50yds down Church Road to the Oast House field, where there will be free parking and a marshal to guide you.
The Rector, PCC and everyone in the Parish look forward to seeing you all for a great family afternoon out, on your doorstep!