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.
Just before Christmas we lost two stalwarts of S. Mary’s. The following is my tribute to Elizabeth Burditt. Next month I will produce a tribute to Norman Longley.
Elizabeth Winifred Burditt
11th July 1921 – 8th December 2020
Elizabeth’s early life was marred with tragedy, born in Swansea, both of her parents died leaving her orphaned at the age of 9. Brought up by her uncle, this early upbringing instilled a strong sense of self survival and determination which endured throughout her life.
When I first met Elizabeth in 2009, it didn’t take long for us to get onto the subject of travel – a passion that both of us shared. In 1947 Elizabeth, her husband (he worked for British American Tobacco) and their daughter Zanne moved to the Far East. Bangkok was the first posting, followed by Singapore, Kuala Lumpur and Colombo. Having been posted to the Far East myself in 1969, we spent many hours reminiscing (usually over a glass or two of Tio Pepe) about that beautiful part of the world. When I returned for a holiday in 2016, Elizabeth insisted I visit places known to her, and was keen to hear of the changes, especially in Singapore, where two of her children (Jane and David) were born. She was amused that little appeared to have changed in Bangkok and Colombo!
Elizabeth had a wonderful command of the English language and had originally trained as a teacher. While in Singapore she became the voice of the BBC Far Eastern Station, and due to the poor communications in those days, had the privilege of reading the Queen’s Christmas message over the air each year. Elizabeth was a prolific writer and always kept Journal – knowing her sense of humour, I imagine this makes for very interesting reading! Upon returning to the UK, Elizabeth resumed her teaching and became Principal of Eastbourne College of Domestic Economy.
Eventually settling in Buxted (her home for over 55 years), Elizabeth became an active member of S. Mary’s. A member of the PCC and the Walsingham Cell, she always enjoyed the Cell House Group and would, when it was her turn to host the group, always provided ‘proper’ coffee and an endless supply of chocolate/ginger biscuits. When Elizabeth’s mobility started to fail she was determined to continue playing hostess to the Cell, and was extremely grateful to receive House Communion from Fr. David until the pandemic restrictions made this impossible.
May she rest in peace.
With grateful thanks to David Burditt for filling in the gaps.
NEWS FROM S. MARY’S
As an interior designer I have often been told that I am obsessed with colour. Although I would not consider myself a ‘fashionista’ I make no apology for liking colour. In fact, I believe we should be brave and creative with colour, not just when decorating our homes or buying new clothes, but in our churches and especially in our worship.
100 years ago the interior of S. Mary’s was saturated with colour, and the murals bursting with pattern. Statues of the saints, elaborate friezes of vines and pomegranates from floor to ceiling, all emblazoned in bright colours. It would certainly have had the WOW factor, although even I would be tempted to say, ‘a little OTT’! The recently revealed mural on the east wall, only provides a hint of what the original must have looked like.
One afternoon during lockdown I carried out the daily security check at S. Mary’s and was amazed at the kaleidoscope of colours dancing across the walls of the Nave, created by the late afternoon sun shining through the west window and picking out the various colours from the stained glass – I wish you could have seen this spectacular sight.
Colour is not a new phenomenon within the Church. The Church seasons are represented by altar frontals and priest’s vestments in different colours: Purple (changing to Rose Pink for one Sunday in Lent and Advent), White/Gold, Red, and Green. Black can be introduced for funerals. There are also many references in the bible, far too many to mention here. Probably the most well known being the rainbow of seven colours (Red, Orange, Yellow, Green, Blue, Indigo and Violet), sent as a sign by God to Noah, that He would never again destroy the earth (Genesis 9:13). Then there’s Joseph’s coat of many colours, yes – that ‘amazing techni-coloured dreamcoat’! (Genesis 37:3) Other references I have found (and I am sure you can find more), some with conflicting symbolism are: Red – for blood and wine. Green – for new life/growth (also frailty and disease). Blue – for heaven and all that is holy (I’m reminded that blue is my favourite colour), it also represents vanity, whores and idolatry!!! Purple – for royalty and riches. White – for purity and righteousness. Yellow – for the colour of gold (also for leprosy). Grey – for the beauty of old age (also for weakness). Etc., etc., and to think that the Church is sometimes referred to as being bland and colourless.
The rainbow is the Christian symbol for hope and has been adopted as a symbol of support for the NHS during this period of the Coronavirus. With this symbol and the colours represented, we hope and pray that we will soon be lifted from this Grey cloud that hangs over the world. Colours make people smile and smiling is infectious. I look forward to seeing you all in your brightest colours as we approach the season of Advent.
Now the bright Red maple leaf has descended upon the rectory, we welcome Fr. Peter and his family to the parish. I am sure they will brighten our churches and worship with their own splash of colour – or should it be color?
As we enter the final months of the year, the natural world around us is beginning to prepare for winter. Many people find the turn from warm summer days, the swell of gardens filled with blooms and heavy green leaf laden trees into Autumn challenging because it points to aging, decay and the closing down of things, of life even.
With Covid-19 as a backdrop to this Autumn these changes can become even more challenging.
But here in Buxted and Harlow Down our countryside makes the turning of the season a celebration of the progression of life, of maturity and of ripeness. Of beauty as green turns to red and into gold.
In our lives, there is a time for every season. The writer of Ecclesiastes in the Old Testament spoke of this:
There is a time for everything,
and a season for every activity under heaven:
a time to be born and a time to die,
a time to plant and a time to uproot,
a time to end and a time to heal,
a time to tear down and a time to build,
a time to weep and a time to laugh,
a time to mourn and a time to dance,
a time to scatter stones and a time to gather them,
a time to embrace and a time to refrain,
a time to search and a time to give up,
a time to keep and a time to throw away,
a time to tear and a time to mend,
a time to be silent and a time to speak,
a time to love and a time to turn away,
a time for strife and a time for peace.
(Ecclesiastes 3: 1-8)
This is the wealth of the human experience. And in each and every season, in the closing down of the year, in the challenges of Covid-19, God is always with us, always present.
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.