First and foremost, all good wishes for 2023 from the Church Committee and congregation at St Mary’s.
We have had an encouraging year, with plans in place to re-instate pilgrimages in 2023. There was a tradition of regular pilgrimage to ‘England’s Nazareth in Sussex’ as late as the 1980s, and a friend of mine remembers coming up from Brighton to one of these as a boy. We hosted a very successful day for several West Sussex churches of our tradition in 2019, and hosting pilgrimage certainly features strongly in our plans for the coming year.
There will be a special event at St Mary’s in the season of Lent, when we look forward to welcoming the Bishop of Lewes to lead a day of quiet and reflection. The date and further details will be confirmed in future posts.
Plans are already afoot for an even bigger and better Open Day & Craft Fair on Saturday 20th May. Most of the exhibitors from 2022 have re-booked, and we will be welcoming some new crafters who have joined us from the UK Craft Fairs website. Our friends from Tinker’s Park will again be with us, exhibiting some of their collection and doing a lot of the heavy lifting involved in setting up and taking down. We will be saying thank you to all of the exhibitors, volunteers and business sponsors at an ‘after party’ in the evening, under our giant marquee in the Community Garden.
We are blessed to live in a most beautiful part of a peaceful country, and at the turn of the year our thoughts rightly turn to places that have endured long periods of conflict, privation and strife. We hope and pray that 2023 will see an end to the war in Ukraine, that a just peace process can be brokered and begun. We pray that a spirit of reconciliation will carry the day there and in all the countless other places where there continues to be war and suffering.
6 Feb 1965 – 24 Feb 2022
Rest In Peace
As the year approaches its end, our thoughts turn to a very sad loss in February, when our Deputy Churchwarden Iain Lindsay passed away. Iain originated from Scotland and came to the village in 2016, living initially almost opposite the church. By day he was a property lawyer in London, and brought this knowledge and skill both to St Mary’s and to the PCC.
Iain was a humble man with a quiet but deep spirituality which shows through clearly in the many reflective pieces he wrote for this ‘News from St Mary’s’ page. Many people have commented that he would have made an excellent priest. In his memory, we are re-publishing his reflections from December 2021 on the meaning of Christmas.
By the time this article appears, a new Rowan tree will have been planted in Iain’s memory in a corner of the Church Hall Garden.
As we begin December, and the Christmas season approaches, what are your first reactions to and thoughts about its arrival? Do you tingle with excitement at the prospect of the return of work parties and drinks with the neighbours, of stocking your pantry with Christmas eats and searching the shops for an abundance of gifts? Or is it somewhat different for you: forced jollity; a lot of expense for a lot of grief; difficult family get togethers; maybe the saddest of memories and loneliness.
There are a myriad of responses to our modern Christmas. And we may feel some of all of these, however contradictory, throughout the period.
So, before hurtling into this season (or cowering away from it all) let’s reset our perspective and change the lens through which we see what approaches.
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.
I gave a brief update last month about meeting the challenge as regards upkeep of the grounds, and also the opportunities for creative use and income generation. We are already planning the 2023 Open Day & Craft Fair, which takes place across the site in the Hall, the Car Park and the Community Garden. Next year’s event date is set for Saturday 20th May.
We are also always looking for additional ways to make best use of the grounds, including our safe off road parking facilities.
You may have noticed that we have leased four parking spaces to a local company, which helps to take some of the pressure of local streets. We have also favourably considered a number of requests for ‘one-off’ parking for local residents’ family events, by prior arrangement and with a donation always welcome. Outside of this, there is daily oversight of the car park, which remains a private facility. Vehicles that we cannot account for are issued with a reminder to this effect.
Sadly, Twisted Toppings Pizza have not been able to make Buxted a viable outlet and I for one am missing my fortnightly Wednesday pizza treat. Hopefully they will give it another go at some stage. Harry from Field & Flame continues with us on alternate Thursdays, with menus and booking mainly via social media.
The Upper Churchyard has been ‘wilded’ for a couple of years now, with a mown path up to the Community Garden. If funds allow, our plan is to return to having the area strimmed once again each Autumn. Although we have a mowing contractor for the site (who does an excellent job) raking and tidying is a constant battle. Most of the graves in the Upper Churchyard date from the early years of the 20th century, often with no-one surviving to tend them. Some of our congregation continue to do regular work, and we will next year be putting out an appeal to anyone living locally who might be able to spare a few hours to join a working party. Strimmer owners particularly welcome!
In the meantime, our weekly pattern of worship continues and we have been pleased to welcome some new residents to the village at our Sunday Mass, which remains at 11.15, with refreshments and fellowship afterwards.
Our Links with Walsingham
Perhaps you might have passed the church and seen on the notice board that we celebrate our links with Walsingham at a weekday service once a month. So what is the connection between Buxted and a little village in Norfolk?
The Shrine of Our Lady of Walsingham was in medieval times a destination of pilgrimage as important as Canterbury, and home to a thriving religious order. Within it was a replica of the Holy House at Jerusalem, built by the Lady of the Manor in the 11th century. The dimensions are believed to have been revealed to her in a vision.
Henry VIII was himself a Walsingham pilgrim as a young man, which is ironic as it was at his hands that the Abbey and shrine were later destroyed as part of the Reformation.
When Fr Alfred Douglas Wagner built St Mary’s in 1887, he included within the church a Walsingham Chapel with the exact same dimensions, and the new Parish church became a place of pilgrimage. This tradition was very strong in the early decades of the 20th century and was certainly a feature of village life when Fr Alfred Hope Patten came as the new curate in 1919.
Hope Patten went on to secure the incumbency at Walsingham when it became vacant and went to Norfolk determined to restore the original shrine as part of his ministry. This needed great ‘sticking power’ but by 1938 his dream was realised when a newly designed Anglican shrine, incorporating the Holy House, was opened. The shrine has grown in strength from decade to decade, and has now been joined by both Roman Catholic and Greek Orthodox special places of worship.
In view of the inspiration Hope Patten received while in the village, I think we can say that without St Mary’s Buxted, there would very likely be no restored Walsingham Shrine.
In 2019 we ‘tested the waters’ to see if there would be interest in a revival of the pilgrimage tradition to Buxted. There were indications of interest from 26 parishes both far and near, and we were able to host a day of pilgrimage that year for a group of West Sussex parishes, with a talk on the history of the church and concluding with Evensong & Benediction. Restrictions in place in 2020 and 2021put paid to any further developments, but I am pleased to say that we are now once again inviting pilgrims.
Church Grounds and Community Garden
The extensive grounds at St Mary’s are a challenge as regards upkeep, but also present opportunities for use and income generation. We are already planning the 2023 Open Day & Craft Fair, which takes place across the site in the Hall, the Car Park and the Community Garden. The event date is set for Saturday 20th May.
We also now host two local businesses who provide good quality food to take away. Twisted Toppings pizza are with us every other Wednesday from 5pm- 8pm, and their website gives details of the menu and booking arrangements.
We are also pleased to welcome brothers Harry and Howard, otherwise known as Field & Flame. After catering for a very successful summer event held by Buxted School, their van will be in the car park regularly on alternate Thursdays. Marketing is mainly via social media.
At 11.00 a.m. on Sunday 14th August the parish will come together to celebrate S. Mary’s Patronal Festival. With the three congregations, and visitors from near and far, it promises to be a joyous occasion. If you’re not a member of either of our churches, you are most welcome to join the celebrations, which will culminate in refreshments being available in the church hall. The celebrant and preacher will be Bishop Nicholas Reade, former Bishop of Blackburn. Please put the date in your diary.
‘The Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary’, to give the day its official title, has been celebrated for centuries. The church through the ages has adorned itself with images of Mary, paintings depicting this specially chosen young woman who became the mother of our Lord. Every significant moment of Mary’s life has been captured by many brilliant artists, each one vying to show the loveliness, the tenderness and the strength of this woman. A famous painting that comes to mind is the Assumption of the Virgin, painted by Titian in 1518. This painting hangs in the Franciscan basilica of Santa Maria Gloriosa in Venice, and is the largest altar piece ever painted. It is full of energy and upward movement as people lift their arms to cling to Christ’s mother, while Mary herself is lifted up into the waiting arms of the heavenly Father.
The painting fixes our eyes on this central figure and on this amazing moment at the end of her earthly pilgrimage. It calls us, as onlookers, to say, “Holy Mary, Mother of God, pray for us sinners now and at the hour of our death. Amen.” This forms part of the ‘Angelus’ which is said at
S. Mary’s every Sunday.
Many artists have tried to emulate Titian by painting their own version of the Assumption. Not least, Father Charles Roe (a former parish priest at S. Mary’s) who was an artist in his own right. His version can be seen on the west wall of the ante-chapel.
“My soul proclaims the greatness of the Lord.” (Luke 1:46)
S. MARY’S PATRONAL FESTIVAL
UNITED PARISH EUCHARIST
SUNDAY 14TH AUGUST
AT 11.00 A.M.
REFRESHMENTS WILL BE AVAILABLE IN
THE CHURCH HALL
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.