Letter from the Vicar...May 2018
Looking around my back garden the other day I was tempted to think ‘what have I done since I moved in two and a half years ago. But then I went and consulted my holy trinity of hens, my ‘3 girlies’, none of whom were with me when I moved – they are all new additions as the originals have died or been taken away from my garden by the fox over these last 30 months.
Always keen to listen and chat to me my ‘girls’ made me realise…
The compost heap has grown, lots of lovely things there for them to discover and gobble up. The veg. patch has come into existence and grown too. The perennial/herbaceous border is still a work in progress, yet it is looking more settled and stable and in fact some plants have grown so well, this year it will be time to plant up a new space that at present is bare and just waiting for new growth to be planted in it. And then I may give myself some time to stand back and watch things grow and blossom, giving a little bit of care and nurturing as I see fit and of course with the help of my Holy Trinity of girls adding their own type of nutrient … as they go about their business.
The grass has grown and given Adrian a mammoth task to keep it all in order, he is like the warden of my patch, coming to my aid just when the grass and I need his help. The apple trees have kept my freezer supplied with fruit to share and each year windfalls by the bucket load have encouraged strangers and passers- by to help themselves to the fruit on offer at the gate, to taste and see …
This spring again I have admired the wonderful camellia at the front of the house, it is still in flower as I write this, with no help from me it has just grown and grown, and given home to many an insect and been admired by many a visitor.
Some patches of the garden are still a bit unkempt, but all have a certain beauty in eye of the beholder, and I will get around to dealing with them sometime, this year, next year or when the time allows and is right. For the moment the whole patch gives me plenty of exercise and refreshment, sometimes producing weariness, sometimes enjoyment, peace and a sense of wonder.
One thing I haven’t needed to do is change the view, the best and most beautiful in the town, I reckon, which everyone can experience when they visit my garden.
I hope you, like me, will try and blossom where you find yourself planted, and as St Paul said in one of his letters …’let the reader understand’!
May the Lord be with you all this May.
Novena - Nine Days of Prayer
For resources click here https://www.canterburydiocese.org/novena/
'Your Kingdom Come' - is a stunning new single by worship leader, Pete James (Co-written by Harvey Jessop) especially for this year's Thy Kingdom Come. Click to watch
Letter from the Vicar...April 2018
Alleluia Christ is Risen! He is risen indeed, Alleluia!
This is the greeting that begins our services in St Dunstan’s church on Easter Day. It’s an ancient tradition and in some places of the world people will still greet each other in this fashion when they meet on the street during the next 50 days that make the season of Easter. For much like the saying ‘a dog is not just for Christmas, a dog is for life’, so we say ‘Easter is not just for a day but it’s for a season and of course for life!’
During the 50 days of the Easter season, at every service, we read from the book in the Bible called ‘The Acts of the Apostles’. This book explores the history of the first Christians coming together, for worship. It tells of the way early Christians lived out their faith, so as to be a witness to their belief that Jesus was and is the Son of God, that he died and rose again, and that after 40 days of resurrection appearances the risen Christ ascended into heaven.
I wonder if we had the opportunity to tell the history of our family tree over the centuries, who was who and what they did during their lives, and why and what we still remember and carry on as traditions in our present lives, would 40 or 50 days be enough to tell all those stories?
Church life is full of traditions, some old, some not so, and some in the making.
One tradition I hope you will enjoy this year is Rogation Sunday. This is the Sunday when traditionally we ask God to bless the crops growing in the fields and gardens. This year Rogation Sunday is on May 6th. At St Dunstan’s we will be joined by the Morris Men of Kent. So, if you want to see a new tradition, come along and see them dancing inside the church at 10.30am at the end of our service, (which will begin at 9.30am) and then as we process out into the churchyard, down into town and maybe even to the allotments.
After that much refreshment will be called for I am sure!
Sharing refreshment together - meals, coffee, cake or beer or even bread and wine is what keeps families and communities together. Jesus knew this, and we read of him often sharing food with others.
It has been a joy to see the positive way you have all been supporting our appeal for groceries for ‘Nourish’, the food bank in Tunbridge Wells, that we know supports some families here in Cranbrook. Thank you. Items can be left in paper carrier bags under the ‘big table’ just inside the door of the church, for monthly delivery to ‘Nourish’. This is one way we can share refreshment together and become more of a family and community.
Let us all Nourish our traditions.
Alleluia Christ is risen, he is risen indeed Alleluia!
With love Revd Ann
Letter from the Vicar...March 2018
I love my slow cooker!
There’s something very satisfying about putting all the ingredients of a meal or two into one pot, letting it cook slowly for maybe 9 or more hours, and then with the aroma saturating the kitchen space and beyond, the time comes to taste it. Everything tender and full of flavour and not too expensive to produce either, it’s a win, win situation as some might say.
As I write this piece, the weather is definitely slow cooker food weather, cold and damp, and not very bright, and yet by the time you read this spring may have sprung. The name of the season, Lent, comes from an old word meaning to Lengthen, as the days do indeed lengthen during Lent as we march on towards Easter. The days are brighter, the temperature warmer and hopefully the gardens will be drier in March than February, for there is so much to be done.
But let’s just reflect on our slow cooker, when the time is right the meal is produced, we realise it just would not have tasted the same if it had been cooked fast and furiously. So perhaps we all know really that winter must come and go before spring comes along and the time is right for those bulbs, which have almost been ‘slow cooking’ under the cold soil since last spring, to now emerge and bring colour and scent and enjoyment to us all at home and in church.
In a way, slow cookers are plodders and as we plod through Lent this year we are looking at a course entitled ‘All things are possible’, the title says it all really, if we just trust in God, all things are possible.
March 25th is often known as Lady Day. For it’s when we remember the Virgin Mary was visited by the Angel Gabriel who told Mary she was to be the mother of Jesus, and that Mary’s cousin, Elizabeth, even in her old age was already expecting the patter of tiny feet, for ‘nothing will be impossible with God’.
Far be it for me to compare the pregnancy of the Virgin Mary, to a slow cooker, yet from the start the ‘ingredients’ are there for one remarkable life, and when the time was right that new life was revealed in all its wonder and glory.
And so, as you plod and slow cook through Lent and into the longer days of spring this year, come and be ‘a fool for Christ’ on Easter Day, this year on April 1st, taste and see the ingredients of the services in church, slow cooked for many years maybe, yet always exciting when the new life of Easter is revealed.
Join me, take it slow, be patient, for the days of Easter will come and we will remember that, just as St Augustine once said;
‘We are an Easter People and Alleluia! is our song’.
Looking forward to those Easter Eggs and with love, - Revd Ann
Letter from the Vicar...February 2018
‘Always look on the bright side of life’.
With the joy of Christmas now seemingly in the past, many days of rain and the rare occurrence of meeting someone who HASN’T had the flu, January and February can seem a bit ####, So let’s always try and look on the bright side of life if we can.
Our crib scene and Christmas trees in church will not come down until 2nd February, the day the Church keeps as ‘Candlemas’, for 40 days after Jesus was born his mother Mary, with Joseph, took Jesus into the temple to ‘present him to the Lord as the law required’ and a very old man called Simeon uttered words recorded in the Gospel according to Luke Chapter 2, telling Mary that this baby was to be a light to lighten the Gentiles. From these words the church through the centuries started to have this day when candles would be blessed and taken home as well as blessing the year’s supply for use in the church. We are now blessed with electricity and so not dependent on candlelight, although sales of scented candles still provide garden centres with much income.
Half way through this month is Ash Wednesday, the beginning of Lent, this year it falls on St Valentine’s day 14th a day that also provides much income for flower shops and garden centre, is there a theme here? Can you tell I used to work in a Garden Centre?
Gardens are places where we watch things grow, some plants need a great deal of nurturing some seem to appear all on their own. All of them benefit from our attention, even if it is just to sit and look and ponder on the cycle of the gardeners’ calendar, from sowing, to growing, to training, to harvesting and finally composting.
Lent can be a time for us all to look again at life and its many blessings, to decide to do some turning over of some places in our lives, just like digging and preparing from planting. To sort through the weeds and compost them, but most of all Lent is a time we can grow deeper into God’s plan - for us and the world we live in.
Much has been in the news lately about plastic, and how, when invented it seemed like the answer to so many problems but now it is the problem itself. Perhaps this Lent we could all try and buy less items wrapped in plastic, always remember our own shopping bag and try to reduce, reuse and recycle. As we grow deeper into God’s plan for us, our roots will enable us to be planted and more embedded into our community here in Cranbrook in such a way that others may want to come and ‘garden’ with us as we seek to proclaim the love of God to all around us.
But first, enjoy those pancakes, before those 40 days that are Lent to us.
Letter from the Vicar...December 2017
It’s that time of year again when, having fed my Christmas cake with brandy for a few weeks, ‘marzipanned’ and iced it, I sit back and wait until the time comes for me to ‘pour’ myself a slice, I can’t wait….
Yet of course that is just what the season of Advent is all about, waiting. But just what are we waiting for? For the answer we need to dissect the word Advent, Ad – towards and vent- the coming, so it means towards the coming, that’s what we are waiting for.
If like me you are a child at heart one of the things we wait for and look toward the coming of, is snow at Christmas. Yet as adults we know in reality it hardly ever happens.
Advent is the season that begins the Church’s annual celebrations of festivals, feast days and Holy times. It is a time when, rather than open cardboard doors and find chocolate, we open our hearts, examine our lives and think through just what the coming of Jesus has meant, to the world and to us and how this might change the things we do during this coming year.
From that moment around 2000 years ago, that will be retold in many a nativity play and carol service this December, to the present moment and the gifts God presents us with now, we are challenged every Advent to look to the future, the end of all time. In this way Advent has become the time when we look back, and look forward and try to deal with the present.
That’s all a bit deep I hear you say, shouldn’t we all be Ho! Ho! Hoing! at this time of the year.
Yes, we should celebrate Christmas, sing carols, give presents, support charities and eat Christmas cake, for we are marking the birthday of the Saviour of the world. However, our ‘Salvator Mundi’ is not a painting (costing us millions of dollars), Our Saviour of the world gave himself for all the world at no cost to us, just his very being. OMG! you could say.
But let us not forget the wonder and seriousness of it all amid the cards and the carols the cake and the turkey, the presents and His Presence among us at this time, in church, at home, in our lives and throughout the world.
Christina Rosetti wrote the lovely carol ‘In the bleak mid-winter’, it has the verse; ’What can I give him, poor as I am. If I were a shepherd I would bring a lamb. If I were a wise man I would do my part. Yet what I can I give him, give my heart’.
St Augustine once said ‘he who sings prays twice’ so just think how many prayers you will be praying over the season of Advent, Christmas and Epiphany, as you sing those carols. May those prayers with God’s help go some way to saving the world so other generations can have their cake and eat it too!
Happy Christmas and New Year to you all
With my love Revd Ann
Letter from the Vicar...November 2017
No warmth, no cheerfulness, no healthful ease,
No comfortable feel in any member –
No shade, no shine, no butterflies, no bees,
No fruits, no flowers, no leaves, no birds –
I don’t think the poet, Thomas Hood, liked November, what a shame. I like this month, possibly because within it is the day I became your Vicar, two years ago now – doesn’t time fly!
What’s not to like in November, lighting a fire, cosying up on the sofa at home in the evenings, cooking wonderful soups and casseroles to warm the body and cheer us up and putting on those favourite winter jumpers that don’t come out that often now with global warming and central heating.
I would disagree with Thomas, the sun does shine in November, and remembering from my school days we are actually nearer to the sun in November than we are in mid-summer! And just occasionally we will still see butterflies fluttering by, sometimes in church too, on the floral displays.
November in the church and the world is the month of remembering, All Saints, All Souls, Guy Fawkes, All the men and women who died in wars of the twentieth century and since, and finally on the last day of the month St Andrew who was one of the first people to be called to follow Jesus.
Andrew like Simon Peter, his brother, left his employment as a fisherman and took the risk to follow this inspirational leader and preacher, this man Jesus, and fish for people! Yet at that time of his calling, Andrew and the other disciples who followed Jesus had no idea of what the following years would bring, for they lived at first in the time before the first Easter, that wonderful moment when God showed us that death is not the end, and there is more life to come. Jesus in some way that we still find hard to put into words had risen and was amongst his friends preaching and teaching, loving them and shepherding them into the moment when they and God were ready for the Holy Spirit, the empowering person of God to come upon them.
If you ever find yourself being called by God to follow Jesus, even to give up your present employment and enter into training for the Ordained life or to join a religious community, just remember Andrew, and his calling, he didn’t know all there was to know, but something about this man Jesus attracted him.
It’s good to remember, especially the significant moments in one’s life, of calling, of loving and of dying, we don’t need to be like Thomas Hood, depressed about the absence of so many things, rather we should rejoice when we remember November, for sparklers may sparkle and rockets may soar, and Christmas is not far away! A time of presence rather than absence but more on that next month.
For now, enjoy those cosy moments on the sofa and remember, remember, remember.
Letter from the Vicar...September 2017
Wishing our time away?????????????????????
September has come around so quickly, I do hope you have all enjoyed the summer and have had some time to rest and refresh yourself for all that will be going on this autumn.
The mornings are already fresher, with cobwebs glistening in the lawns and the robins starting to mark out their territory, sing their autumn song. Apples weighing heavy on my two old trees here in the vicarage garden and the nights are drawing in!
Have you purchased your first Christmas card yet? I have already received some catalogues, it seems we all have an urge to wish our time away and yet … let’s just savour the moment shall we, and be thankful.
On my window sill in my study I have some nick-nacks that make me call to mind moments I have savoured and I am thankful for each one of them.
From left to right, a dish containing some polished stones, a wooden carving spelling ‘rejoice in the Lord’ a model of a child being held in the palm of a hand, the icon of the trinity, a scallop shell a picture of my brother and I and a bottle of bubble bath! Quite a collection of meaningless objects, it might seem, but all tell stories of moments I have savoured. Let me explain.
The polished stones – an Ash Wednesday idea of mine one year to carry a stone in my pocket each day in Lent, remembering my sins have been forgiven.
Rejoice in the Lord – a wooden carving I purchased in Singapore Cathedral while travelling to sing at my friend’s ordination in Dunedin Cathedral in 2003.
The baby in the hand, given to me as I began my journey to ordination, a special moment, some 17 years ago now.
The icon of the trinity – always in my sight as I sit at my desk, constant moments with God to savour, even if deadlines of sermons and articles for magazines draw close!
The scallop shell – the symbol of baptism and pilgrimage, and I have done a few.
The photo of my brother and me – on graduation day, proud brother and his ‘sis’
And the bubble bath? Well, it was used one day at a service as a visual aid – maybe again sometime soon?
Bubbles are fragile, momentary, and show the colours of the rainbow if the light is right. You just have to savour the moment yet how we love to pop them, be honest we have all done it, for we are all children at heart.
This autumn as we see children go off to new schools let us not wish their time away, for they have years ahead of them to grow up into responsible adults - like their Vicar perhaps? (who has just spent several moments savouring stones, shells and bubble bath!) All in good time as they say, for time is a gift from God so let’s not wish it away.
With Love and Bubbles
Letter from the Vicar...July 2017
What a lot has happened since I last wrote ‘page two’ for St Dunstan's parish magazine; two terrorist attacks in this country, a general election and a tragic fire of a high-rise block in London.
Within the life of St Dunstan’s church, your Vicar has returned to work after an absence of nine weeks recovering from an operation, (I am much better thank-you but still not quite 100% fit – or as fit as I was!), we enjoyed Bishop Trevor’s visit for the Deanery confirmation service, where we witnessed 11 people be confirmed. Three youngsters have been baptised, Messy Church has happened as normal with 20 children and 28 adults enjoying a service exploring the call of God to Samuel and lots of people climbed to the top of the tower during the bank holiday fun in May.
And so, we remember good times and bad times, locally and nationally, things that managed to reach the front pages of the newspapers and occasions that didn’t make the news at all.
How are we to deal with all this? What we mustn’t do is over-burden ourselves with other people’s problems, that’s God’s job. Yes, we need to rejoice with those who rejoice and weep with those who weep, but as a wise Archdeacon once told us clergy as we looked at the parable of the lost sheep, and wondering, with the declining number of congregations in church, if we were the one sheep who was lost and the 99 were those outside the church, the archdeacon said, ‘always remember you can only carry one sheep at a time!’ therefore - take it steady.
July and August are months when many people have holidays. Schools breakup, factories shut down for a fortnight and sometimes we all enjoy lovely weather! These months then become time to rest and relax, to barbecue and bathe, to visit new places and perhaps even attend a different church on a Sunday. If you are having a holiday away from Cranbrook please do take one of St Dunstan’s parish magazines with you and send our best wishes to the congregation there. Bring back one of their magazines, it’s a way of learning and sharing new ideas and realising that we are one big family.
That for me has been the striking thing that has occurred as a result of the terrible occurrences in Manchester and London, and as a result of seeing young and old come forward for baptism and confirmation, we are one big family and when one hurts, we hurt and when one rejoices, we rejoice.
There has been a noticeable outpouring of love across the nation and might that just be the Grace of God in action? that will help us deal with all this?
Whether we stay at home or go away, let’s enjoy these Holy Days given to us when we are on holidays, and thank God for bearing the burdens of our big family.
With love from your sister and mother in Christ