NEWS FROM ST MARY’S – September 2020
The St Mary’s site is sometimes referred to as the ‘parish campus’ as we have not only the church, but also The Rectory, the Church Hall and more recently, the Community Garden in the top field. All of these require administration and maintenance, relying on voluntary effort in a number of areas.
There was a ‘deep clean’ of the Church Hall in July, in readiness for the re-opening of the Hall. It is hoped that this will be in September, but we are of course subject to government rules and requirements, which are subject to change. Homer tells me that the Dementia Group would very much like to come back, and Universal Dance are eager to have some definite dates for their children’s class. We are also hoping to cater for the canine community with some regular ‘fun dog training’ classes. So fingers crossed that all this will be able to go ahead.
A few weeks back I completed my own response to the Reading Room survey, and commented that the two halls in Church Road could usefully co-ordinate with each other to avoid clashes of dates, and also to accommodate events which require safe outside space and parking. St Mary’s is able to tick both these boxes and so is ideal to host larger outside events.
The Rectory remains empty, but hopefully not for too much longer. We had a very successful working party at the end of July to tame the garden, and our mowing contractor will be keeping the grass down until the new Rector arrives. The appeal for furniture and fittings seems to be going very well, so all is set to provide a welcoming home environment for Rev. Molloy and his family.
In the churchyard we have adopted a policy of keeping the Upper Churchyard ‘wilded’ for the summer, with strimming taking place in the late Autumn. The other areas of the site, including the Community Garden, are being close cut.
You may have noticed a large area immediately behind the church which is also close cut and enclosed by rose hedging. This will eventually serve as a Garden of Remembrance. We have permission to provide some bench seating, and some tentative enquiries are being made with the Diocese as regards what may be possible to accommodate memorials.
Sunday church services are now re-instated, and we also open the church every day for visitors and private prayer. Do drop in to the ‘campus’ if you find yourself in the centre of the village. Apart from The Rectory, it is fully open to the public and is a well kept and tranquil place and, we hope, a credit to the village.
Contribution from St Mary the Virgin to the Buxted Messenger – August 2020 Edition
As we have emerged somewhat blinking into the daylight of post lockdown life one of the joys is being able to worship together in our Parish churches. You will always be given a warm welcome at our 11.15 Mass each Sunday at St Mary’s, never more so than at our Patronal Festival, which is held to celebrate the Feast Day of the Blessed Virgin and which this year will be held on Sunday 16th August. Due to Covid-19 restrictions regrettably there will be limited spaces so do make sure to come early so as not to miss out.
We have become used over the past several months to lockdown worship and meetings. Endless Zoom screen time. It has been a gift for many, isolated and cut off from family and friends.
But unlike Zoom our companionship with God through Jesus is not dependent upon receiving a link and dialling in. God is with us at all times, wherever we go and in whatever circumstances we find ourselves. God is not just for Sundays or the happy times but he walks alongside us, providing us with his strength, for the difficult hard times, even the dark valley times, in our lives.
In the New Testament letter to the Romans (8:38-39) St Paul reminds us that “I am sure that neither death nor life, nor angels nor rulers, nor things present nor things to come, nor powers, nor height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord.”
And when you dial up to Zoom you wait to be admitted to the online meeting by the person who has invited you. Not so with God. We all probably remember the parable of the lost son, who took his father’s portion of wealth and squandered it. He didn’t believe that upon returning home he would be welcomed at all. But we are reminded that the father, just like God, who had been waiting expectantly, whilst the son was still some way off from reaching home, ran out to greet him and threw his arms around him in love. He is so filled with joy at his son’s return he doesn’t question or lecture him; instead, he unconditionally forgives him and accepts him back into his home. That is the message of our Gospel, grace given to us without limit. No waiting to be admitted.
And although, when the Zoom call is over, everyone presses the link to leave the meeting, God remains with us. There is no checking out by him. As the Psalmist says: “I always remember that the Lord is with me. He is here, close by my side.” (Psalm 16)
And so whilst Zoom and other online technologies bring all our family and friends close to us virtually, in reality, God is always there to love, support and care for us in every situation we find ourselves night and day.
Every blessing to you all from the congregation at St Mary’s.
At the time of writing it has been announced that churches will soon be opening again for private prayer. Let us hope that some form of public worship, with amendments if necessary, will not be far behind.
At St Mary’s we have been dealing with some incursions by the weather, particularly damage to the bell tower roof and the flint facings to the front stairs.
What appeared to be a fairly routine check on the internal decorations has proved to be more challenging. St Mary’s is unusual in not having been built with an east window. The original plan was to extend the church to the east at some later stage, but these plans did not come to fruition. The east wall was originally decorated with murals designed by our founder Fr Alfred Douglas Wagner, depicting four saints in canopied niches. Work on these ceased upon the death of Fr Wagner in 1902. Work resumed in 1917, with the project completed by Fr Roe. Both Fr Roe and his wife are buried in the churchyard.
The murals were painted over in 1951, at a time when they were less than forty years old and presumably in good condition. One is reminded of some of the excesses of the Reformation, but perhaps there was a more mundane reason for it. The grand carved wooden altar and reredos were also removed, and it is unclear where they ended up. The only thing to survive was the centrepiece of the reredos, a depiction of the Immaculate Conception painted by Fr Roe himself. This now hangs in the ante-chamber to the Walsingham Chapel.
Four years ago St Mary’s was internally re-decorated, and the murals were exposed. At that time we were advised that it would not be feasible to restore them, so regretfully they were again painted over. The paint on the east wall does not however seem to have adhered very well, and most of it came away last month when a few exploratory scrapes were tried by our contractor.
The Churchwardens and Diocesan Architect have inspected the east wall, and the Diocesan Advisory Committee have been asked to investigate whether at least part of the exposed sections might be retained. We could then have a small reminder of the ‘lavish decoration and furnishings’ as described by commentators as late as the 1960s.
Another important part of our re-opening plan is the pilgrimage programme. We hope to again welcome pilgrims in 2021. These will be whole day occasions, as in 2019. As a part of these days there will be a talk on the history of the church, with some interesting props, delivered by Colin Woolgrove. We will make sure that the dates and times are publicised here, and of course you do not need to be a pilgrim to attend.
In our world of altered reality with all of the changes to our lives brought about by Covid-19 and in which many people are experiencing untold hardship, suffering and loss, as many have said, there are still many examples of love, care and kindness which overall prevail in these dark times. Not just the courage and commitment of those who work so tirelessly in the NHS, in social care and as keyworkers who make our lives more bearable during this pandemic. But also the great and little acts of human kindness demonstrated by family, friends, neighbours, parishioners and often strangers to one another, binding our community in care against this adversity.
These horrible and difficult times have brought out the best in many people. And we cling to that as we begin to consider emerging into the new normal which Covid-19 has brought about in our lives.
What does our Church have to say in response to this? Well, although the restrictions brought about by the virus still mean that our regular worship together at St Mary’s and the other churches in our Parish cannot take place, our community of faith and day by day walk with God continues unchanged. We still experience the grace and goodness of God – the kindness of others towards us demonstrates this tangibly – and we still worship as a Parish albeit individually and in our own myriad ways.
And how the kindness of others in these challenging times speaks to us of the fruits of the Spirit, of which we have just been reminded as we celebrated Pentecost Sunday at the end of May. In the Bible we are told:
“But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, forbearance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control.” (Galatians 5, vs 22-23)
These are the characteristics which mark us out as God’s people; they demonstrate that, whilst it is often a struggle, God works through his Spirit to mark us out as changed people and this is evident by what we say and do and the way we go about our daily lives. We’re not perfect, but if we allow God, he will work marvels in our lives.
And the acts of kindness, of common humanity shared amongst us in these times, give us much to thank God for and to celebrate, even in the face of such a pandemic.
Every good wish and blessing from the congregation at St Mary’s.
Six hundred years before Jesus was born, the Jewish people were driven from their beloved temple in Jerusalem and sent away in exile to Babylon. It was a time of bitterness, pain and grief, described so powerfully in Psalm 137: ‘By the rivers of Babylon we sat and wept when we remembered Zion’.
That is surely how most of us feel now that we have been separated for a while from our beloved Shrine at Walsingham. For all of us it is a place of such life and joy and healing that to be unable to make the pilgrimage seems unbearable. It is like an exile to us. And of course that pain comes against a back drop of fear and anxiety in our nation as ever more extreme measures are taken to keep us safe against the pandemic.
So please, in this time of grief, remember three things:
First, remember at Walsingham the praying never stops. The Mass is being offered privately and each night at 6pm a lone person will offer Shrine Prayers in the Holy House. That praying is for you. Walsingham is precious to us because it is a place where prayer is offered and answered and the praying will always continue. So why not, at 6pm each night, offer a Decade of the Rosary and make a pilgrimage to the Holy House in your heart? Or even better, watch the Shrine Prayers as it is live streamed on the Shrine website.
Second, remember that the truth to which Walsingham bears witness is unchanging. Because of Mary’s bold and daring obedience, God is with us in Jesus. And having come to be with us, he has no intention of leaving. No matter what may befall our nation or what you personally may have to endure, Jesus is with you. He who bore pain on the cross bears also the pain of all who will suffer from this virus. He who rose again in glory guarantees that hope and love will always triumph over fear and darkness. Nothing can ever undermine that truth.
And third, remember, this will not last. By being separated for a while from England’s Nazareth, we will come to love it even more. And one day we will return to Mary’s home and join in with her intercession, a band of pilgrims united by our unfailing hope in the Word made Flesh.
So keep praying! Pray for our nation, pray for our Shrine, pray for your loved ones and pray for that day when we can go to Walsingham once more.
With my love and prayers,
In normal circumstances the end of April and beginning of May would be a time of daily activity at St Mary’s, in preparation for our annual Open Day. This has sadly had to be cancelled, along with more or less every other kind of village and parish activity.
The rough notes I had for this article were made a couple of weeks before the ‘lockdown’ but are still relevant now, if not more so.
In the early months of this year, as I went about the business of setting up the event, I was again struck by the general good will and willingness to help. The Tinker’s Park Trust have not only made available more of their historic collection, but also their invaluable experience and skill at event management. Several local businesses were more than happy to sponsor the event, and I was able to assemble a very varied group of exhibitors, with a fascinating range of crafts and things to sell.
I grew up in East London, and in our borough we had a very grand 1930s Town Hall. A frieze above the entrance quotes, if I am right, John Ruskin – ‘Fellowship is Life and the Lack of Fellowship is Death.’ A sociologist would call this ‘social capital’ – people trusting each other and co-operating. A parish such as ours still has this and all its benefits, such as low crime, safe streets and people looking out for each other. Sadly this is no longer the case in that part of London.
We need ‘social capital’ to thrive as human beings in the places where we live, and it becomes vital at a time of crisis. I would say that Buxted’s reserves are good, one very clear example being the volunteer effort operating out of the Buxted Inn during the lockdown.
The Open Day is ready to go, but just not this year! Everyone has signed up for Saturday 15th May 2021, when we look forward to being one great merry throng in and around the hidden gem that is St Mary’s.