Letter from the Vicar...January 2020
It is great to have our parish magazine up and running again after a year without it. My thanks go to David and Gwenneth who have taken on the reins of organising the production for this year.
As 2020 begins do you, like me, find yourself looking back to 2019 and looking forward to the coming year at one and the same time? The New Year is always a good time to take stock and ponder on plans for the coming 365 days, we could all ask ourselves these three questions - ‘1. What shall I change, 2. what shall I stop doing and 3. what shall I enjoy keeping the same?’
The third one is the easier one, for I shall enjoy keeping friends with my long-time friends, some who have known me now for well over 55 years! The middle one is a bit trickier – I shall try my hardest to stop doing too much – easier said than done, but at least from 1st January I will have stopped being Area Dean having completed my three-year stint at that post.
The first question – what shall I change? This is difficult, be honest none of us like change but we know it happens, I certainly didn’t look like I do now, 55 years ago, so if we in our bodies change, we mustn’t be surprised if the body of the church changes too.
Our church building has, since last September certainly changed, for we now have many new lights in situ and the prospect of more to come later on in January. We will be a brighter, more environmentally-kind church as the lights all have L.E.D bulbs. The question is how will we as a church body, not just the building, but the people, change? will we be more environmentally-kind, will we be brighter and try not to look on the dark side of everything, for we need a brighter outlook on life even if we are going through dark times.
Even in the darkest days there can still be signs of new life, in my garden the bulbs are already pushing their way through the soil, and as they grow they will be changing the old compacted soil into something new and glorious, the snowdrops will be out soon reminding me of Candlemas, on 2nd February, the very last day of Christmas for me, when my hallway will change as I take my crib set down. (do read my piece about Candlemas further on in this magazine)
And so, each New Year we start afresh again, and change will be in the air. Diaries are still new with not too many engagements in them, I hope, save for those special Holy Days, which are holidays for us all, times when we catch up with the same old friends, times when we stop and times when we change and let God enlighten us in all our changes.
Letter from the Vicar...September 2019
Happy New Year to you!
No, your Vicar has not lost the plot yet! But as we come to the end of August and begin September, everything seems to start again, almost like a new year. School term begins, and we wish all those going back to school all the best. For some, parents and little ones, it is school for the first time, or a new school for the first time. Do you remember your first day at school?
I remember my first day at a school in Lewes, the moment when all 300 or so girls sang ‘Lift up your hearts’ in assembly was special.
I hope this autumn we will all lift up our hearts as we worship our God who travels with us every step of every new year and occasion.
I hope the summer was kind to you, hot at times and at others a good amount of rain for our gardens, no wonder we in England are always talking about the weather- you have to agree it is more interesting than the other subject focusing the minds of parliament at this time, or perhaps you disagree – that’s fine, for all of us are different and all precious in the sight of God, thank goodness.
This time of year, we look towards Harvest Festivals, which rather than a New Year might seem to suggest the end of a growing year, and yet we know that throughout the year different fruits and vegetables come to be harvested. Our Harvest Festival in St Dunstan’s will this year be the day after Apple Fair Day. We will have three services on Sunday October 6th at 8am, 9.30am and at 6pm, I invite you all to come along and give thanks for the harvest, you will be made most welcome.
As I write this in Mid-August, I am conscious of the security of my home, a place of cool in the summer’s heat and of warmth and stillness on any wet and windy day. How blessed we are when we think of all those without homes, those who have suffered from floods and disasters and those who are refugees within or without their home countries.
I pray that as we begin again this September, we may be mindful of all the things for which we should give thanks to God; our education, our countryside, our homes and our gardens, our churches and our town of Cranbrook.
As we come to Apple Fair time and Harvest thanksgiving let us pray that;
All of us will pay attention to our part in the lives of everyone this autumn, and give thanks.
With love to the core!
Letter from the Vicar...June 2019
At this time of the year I can easily get distracted by the flowers and life in my garden.
Outside the front of the vicarage I have two patches of Ox Eye daisies, making a little meadow you drive through to reach the front door from the road. And at the side as I look out from my study today my rambling Rector roses are almost perfection, climbing up the arbour over a brick patio.
Then there is the veg. patch with its tomatoes to side-shoot, the spinach to pick and the runner beans are just starting to run, and need my help with strings to guide them. And almost every time I enter the kitchen, I see my friendly little robin come down and look longingly at me, just waiting for some food. And then of course there are my girls, my three hens, who are always distracting me and entertaining me all at the same time. And then there is all the sporting fixtures of world cup cricket, tennis and Ascot. How do we ever manage to stay focused at work I wonder?
Our young people will not want to be distracted at this time of year for there is much revision to be done, for their exams are looming.
Sometimes, though, our distractions help us to put life in its correct perspective, to see the beauty of creation and to wonder at the amazing capabilities of our brain and our physical skills
I find comfort in a line from scripture ‘the grass withers the flowers falls, but the word of the Lord endures for ever’. For although I know the garden is lovely in June, I also know that the roses will drop their petals and the spinach will get tough and go to seed and the robin will not be so tame after her chicks are grown up, and of course the brambles will continue to grow! But the word of the Lord endures for ever. What word is the Lord speaking to us this June, perhaps do your best, perhaps stop and stare and wonder, perhaps study, perhaps not?
The enduring character of my garden is that it is ever changing and that for us, our lives and for the church is perhaps the word of the Lord we need to take on board, we do need to change, to grow to blossom and then to seed and be prepared to be pruned. It’s only natural.
Think how odd it would be if my Ox Eye daisies stayed just as they are for the rest of time, some-how I think they would lose their appeal.
But that’s probably enough distractions from this Rambling ‘rector’ or vicar that I am. I pray that all of us will do our best in life this June and realise change is a natural thing in God’s creation and indeed in church.
Happy Summer Days to you.
Letter from the Vicar...April 2019
Oh Happy Day! Oh happy day!
When Jesus washed
When he washed
Oh when he washed
He washed my sins away
Oh Happy day!
What a glorious gospel message this old Gospel song sings to us. The month of April, this year, sees us come to the end of Lent, go through the drama of Holy Week and the joy of Easter Day. For information about all the various services in St Dunstan’s Church please see the inside pages of this newsletter.
Easter is a really happy time in church, the building is full of the scent of the flowers, especially lilies, and after the bare church, void of flowers for the season of Lent, it will be great to see and smell the flowers. And the hymns will be full of Alleluias and joyful, come along and join us you will be made most welcome.
People often ask me why is Good Friday called Good, when it is the day we remember when Jesus died such a terrible death on the cross. My answer has to be ‘because of Easter Day’. Sounds simple but it is, as with most theology, complicated and something we can more easily take on faith and trust than truly understand. For Jesus, being fully human, had to experience a human death, otherwise God in Jesus would not have been 100% incarnate, 100% human. And so Good Friday was the day Jesus washed our sins away as the song sings to us. Yet the first Easter Day was when Jesus rose from the dead, for he is 100% divine. His rising from the dead, on Easter Day, shows that death is not the end of things for us, and it is this hope and celebration that makes us an Easter People and ‘Alleluia is our song’. So, come and sing Alleluias with us this Easter, go on, you might even find it to be one of those ‘oh happy days, moments ’, I pray so.
And then of course there’s all that chocolate to be eaten, oh joy and happy day!
As I write this letter there still doesn’t seem to be any joy or happy days in the Houses of Parliament. Perhaps we should send all our M.Ps some Easter Joy and chocolate, who knows it might make a difference. This time we are living in, perhaps, is the countries’ version of Good Friday, it has to be gone through in order for us to celebrate in the end. Mind you, Jesus just took three days to rise from the dead, not three years as this process of Brexit seems to have done.
Never mind, whichever way you feel on that issue, may I wish you a happy Easter and remind you again that we are an Easter People and Alleluia is our song!
Alleluia! Christ is risen! He is risen indeed! Alleluia!
Oh Happy day!
With love (and chocolate)
Letter from the Vicar...March 2019
To Brexit or not to Brexit? That is the question
Well, sorry but I don’t have the answer, not yet anyway! We will just have to wait and see what happens on 29th March. It may have surprised you how passionate some people are with their opinions on whether we should leave or remain. It seems this issue has split communities and families.
To believe in God or not to believe in God? - now that’s another question altogether. At some time in our lives all of us will ponder on this question and you will not be surprised about how passionate some people are with their opinions.
How people answered this question over the centuries, has split communities, just think of the Reformation and Counter Reformation, of arguments between the Established church and the Dissenters and of discussions between some scientists and theologians.
On March 6th the church and Christians across the world begin the season of Lent. Forty days when we try and find time to discuss questions about our belief in God and Jesus and how it affects the way we live out our lives. During Lent some folk are passionate about giving up something, and giving money to the poor, others might study the Bible in more depth to find out what the text really says to them today. Still others will carry on as though nothing has changed, yet quietly and without any big show, they are going about their life doing good and encouraging others to follow their example just by the way they live. There is no correct answer of how we should spend these days Lent to us.
Perhaps I should ask you, do you need all that? Stuff? money? politics? religion? There is such a difference between what we need and want especially in our so called First World that we are blessed to live in, like here in Cranbrook. What would happen if you gave it all away, all that stuff, money, political views, religious traditions? I don’t know, I’m sorry I don’t have the answer, except … I believe God will still be loving you.
Better spend some time praying about it
Rest in God’s presence and see
Earthlings like you and me, we sometimes mess up this world
Xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx says God, ‘I love you!’
I realise I can’t do anything to earn God’s love
Today, tomorrow or ever. And so ………
Let God form your belief
Enjoy being a child of God
Never try to compare yourself to another
Today, tomorrow, or ever. Amen.
I don’t suppose that’s answered any questions you may have had at the beginning, but then again, I could just say ‘God knows the answer’ but are we asking the right questions of ourselves?
Promise me you won’t let the politicians get you down. Keep smiling, let’s wait and see, I do know it will be Easter next month. Now there is something to believe in!
With love, Revd Ann
Letter from the Vicar ...February 2019
Since our last PCC a lot has happened! We have hosted one Funeral and one memorial service, no weddings or baptisms. This year we have 5 weddings booked so far and I have one baptism and 3 funerals booked in the next few weeks.
Before Christmas we hosted a first – a schools Christingle
service with both primary schools sending all their pupils and Cranbrook School
their year 7’s and 8’s. Their year 7’s had fun the day before making 360
Christingles. Thanks to Susan Butler and Jennifer Wigram for coming to help.
The service was a great success and we intend to do a similar event next year
and invite year 7s from High Weald Academy year 7s from Cranbrook School and
Colliers Green and Cranbrook Primary schools. I hope to have the publicity out
earlier so that we can have a better collection. The service collection raised
just over £100 for Childrens’ society, but it would be good if we can collect
more money for such a good cause.
St Dunstan’s church building was used for a variety of
school carol services and concerts in December, from Nursery age to 18 years,
from Choral Christmas concert to our own carol service.
Our Christmas services from 23rd Dec. Carol service, Christmas Eve and Christmas Day services were well attended, numbers down on last year but people who came were generous and we were able to give away about £1100 divided between the 4 charities the PCC had chosen. All the services had a good feel to them. Thanks must go to my churchwardens and all the sidesmen and women who helped make everything go so smoothly. This year we will have the carol service on Sunday 15th December to give us all a bit of space between carol service and Christmas services.
Let there be light – my thanks go to Nye and his team for all their hard work sending in applications. Thanks too for the generous donation of £15, 500 from the Friends which Connie has transferred into our bank account today. This means we can now say we have raised 30% of the estimated total of the works and so Nye will be able to approach more grant bodies that wait until we have raised 30% of the total. I am inviting everyone to think about what fundraising event they can put on, I shall be holding a sausage and mash lunch on 23rd April at the Vicarage 12.30pm.
Compass Choir – first week in January, this was a great success and will now hold rehearsals in the church every Wednesday from 5.30-7pm. Having consulted with churchwardens we agreed to offer hospitality to the choir for a nominal amount as the choir is for well being of people and as a help to those suffering from loneliness and depression. Accordingly they have come back with a donation of £250 for their launch week and £60 ( or £100 when heating is on) for which we are grateful. They will also promote the '100 club' and 'Let there be light' project amongst their members.
Readers; I have met with David Gillies and John Mulrenan for their annual reviews. From now on David and John will share the place on the PCC.
We have had 3 special services in January, Epiphany, Plough Sunday and an evening service for the week of prayer for Christian unity. All well supported. Numbers attending 9.30am service are holding up and I feel have increased slightly. The next special service will be on Saturday 2nd February at 6pm Candlemas day service, you are all invited to come and bring candles to be blessed, and we will ask God’s blessing on the candles to be used in church for the coming year.
Messy Church – we enjoyed an Epiphany party after our service on Friday 11th January with David Riddick making a rather stern King Herod!
I now take collective worship at Colliers Green and Cranbrook Primary schools every fortnight.
With love, Revd Ann
The Archbishop of Canterbury's New Year Message 2019
click here to read
Letter from the Vicar ...December 2018
Presents, cake, mince pies, mulled wine, log fires, days off, a walk in the countryside, a jigsaw puzzle, friends and family.
Debt, increased waistline, alcoholism, bad back from lifting too heavy a bag of logs, too much overtime, twisted ankle, a lost piece of jigsaw – so very frustrating and a sense of loneliness.
Which ‘party’ do you fall into?
If all we believe is based on television adverts, Christmas is a happy time for everyone, when too much food is eaten and never a cross word is heard, is that fake news or what?
As a Christian and your Vicar, Christmas for me is a celebration that is not fake, for we mark the birthday of Jesus, this divine human being who lived in the land we now call Holy, and died and rose again for all of us (but there I am looking forward to Easter again).
Concentrate Ann, it’s the December page two you are writing for!
But how can I concentrate, I am a child at heart and all these good things to do with Christmas are, in the main, so exciting. It really is a shame when people say ‘thank God, Christmas only comes once a year!’, we ought to be thanking God all the time for the wonder of God being incarnate - becoming ‘in the flesh’, one of us, so we can be at one with him and each other. The true meaning of Communion? being at one with, in union with God, ourselves and one another.
Midnight Mass (Communion, late on Christmas Eve) is for me the very essence of Christmas. The church is decorated gloriously for the big day, sidesfolk give out lots of service sheets (and then at the end of the service have to count lots of money – hopefully -in the collection), the pews are full, friends and strangers come together in prayer and song and the carols and readings are familiar too.
And all because of one scrap of humanity, a baby wrapped up in a bundle of swaddling clothes, rags even, the person whose body was then wrapped up in grave clothes on that first Good Friday – there is the Easter event again.
Concentrate Ann it’s the December page two you are writing.
The thing is, like love and marriage, horse and carriage, you can’t have one without the other, Christmas and Easter - I mean.
But let’s not try to think too academically, rather let’s be children of God and wonder, hear angels singing peace on earth goodwill to all people, see shepherds visiting a baby, look at a star in the sky, quietly observe a mother cradling her new born Son, knowing he is the ‘Word made flesh’ to come and ‘be with us’, the meaning of his name - Emmanuel.
And on the road three wise people travelling – not there yet!
I wonder will you come and be with us?
I pray and hope so.
With love at Christmas time, Revd Ann
Letter from the Vicar ...November 2018
Tradition! Tradition! Tradition!
These are the first words of the musical ‘Fiddler on the Roof’. The opening chorus has the various characters singing about why they do such and such, and why they wear such and such. None of them really know the answer – it’s just ‘Tradition!’
November is the month full of traditions in the church and community but we do know why we carry out these traditions, I hope!
We wear poppies, to remember the fallen in world wars and to raise money for the Royal British Legion, to fund the work they do with war veterans and their families.
We come to church on Remembrance Sunday, to show our respect for all those civilian and armed forces personnel who died as a result of war, and we come to pray for peace. It’s a tradition that still touches us even as we commemorate this year the 100th Anniversary of the end of the First World War at 11am on 11th day of the 11th month.
Earlier in the month, on the very first day, the church traditionally remembers All Saints throughout the ages, those good men and women who do not have their own ‘red letter day’ in the church’s calendar. On November 2nd, we traditionally remember All Souls, people we have loved and who have died, we have the opportunity to light a candle in their memory and sing hymns of comfort and hope.
Then of course there is the tradition of Fireworks on 5th November. Remembering the foiled Gun-power plot to destroy the seat of democracy in this country. My guess is that actually nowadays we just enjoy seeing the wonderful display of fireworks. There is nothing political about rockets and sparklers, surely, it’s just the tradition that we grew up with.
My prayer is that the tradition of the church of St Dunstan here in our town of Cranbrook, is one of welcome and warmth, of friendship and comfort, of fine music and worship, of Messy Church and Tots plus, of Bible study groups and coffee mornings. And of charity - giving to those less fortunate than ourselves. (For example, with your help this year we have given many kilos of food and supplies to the food bank ‘Nourish’. This is a new tradition that I would like to hope one day will not be needed, but for now, it has become a tradition and one that is essential for many in our society)
Why do we do these things? surely it stems from the tradition of Christians following the life of Jesus and us fashioning our way of living on that one person, divine and human, who showed welcome and warmth, friendship and comfort, took children in his arms and blessed them, distributed loaves and fishes to those who were hungry, and shared bread and wine with his disciples, thus giving an old tradition a new and special meaning. And the one who died and rose again for us.
Bishop of Dover announces retirement
Bishop Trevor has announced his intention to retire in May 2019.
The Rt Revd Trevor Willmott, Bishop of Dover and Bishop in Canterbury, has announced his intention to retire in May 2019. He has served in this role since February 2010, taking on additional responsibilities for the Channel Islands in 2014. Bishop Trevor will conclude his public ministry on 12 May at Canterbury Cathedral. Read more here
For the month of October
A favourite poem of mine I share with you this month, when we think of autumn and the season of mellow fruitfulness, the harvest and the many blessings God has bestowed upon us and how we can see God in all around us;
You are – Ann Woodroffe
Like falling leaves you are, changed into gold,
Like red wine you are, mellowed and old,
Like ripe apples you are, russet tanned,
Sweet with the fullness of their maturity.
You are a swiftly flowing stream,
You are a waterfall,
You are a swallow on the breeze,
You are heather on the hills,
You are dew on a spider’s web, diamonds.
Like an arrow from a bow you are, sharp and keen,
Like damp moss you are, rich with green.
The pine trees shake their shaggy heads and rustle themselves,
The berries are ripe and whole.
The sun streaks itself across the breeze,
The morning is yet young and the dew is full,
The whole of nature heaves together in love,
The world melts into a heaviness of made, done, completed unity, a circle.
And beyond all manner of so much are you,
The joy of the birds is in your name,
And the cooing of the doves is for your peace.
Like no other you are, failing never,
My beloved in glory you are, victorious forever.
Happy autumn to you all.
Letter from the Vicar...September 2018
What a Summer we had
Phew!, its so hot! was the most common sigh here in the vicarage. Perhaps it was the same where you live. Curtains were drawn to keep out the sun, windows were shut to keep out the heat during the day and then thrown open much later in the day. Early mornings and evenings became the best parts of the day when work could be done or when the temperature was suited to sitting outside in the garden. And I reckon we all missed our duvets.
Now September is here and it’s a little like wishing you all a happy new year, for school begins again, some children to school for the first time, some students to college, some to employment, all these new and exciting times start this month. We wish you all well in your new start in life.
So, what’s new in the life of St Dunstan’s, this September?
Well – within the church building you may see a slight change in the way some of the seating areas look, nothing will have been lost, just rearranged.
Within our Sunday services during September, the sermons, rather than being based on the readings for the day, will be a series of sermons. We will be looking at ‘why we do what we do’ ‘what do we say’ ‘what do we believe’ and ‘what do we receive’ and ‘What about God in all this’ in our worship in church? How about making a new year’s resolution this September to come along to church on each of the five Sundays this month.
On Saturday 8th September many cyclists across the county will be taking part in the Ride and Stride event, raising money for Kent churches. When I grew up I never had a bike of my own and so would be no good today at cycle road safety etc, and so I hope to cycle in the churchyard using a static cycle, come along and cheer me on my way and you could even join in, it’s all in a good cause and a bit of fun, I hope to see you there.
No doubt at various times in the day the sigh ‘phew its hot’ will be heard, after all summer is never really over until harvest time. More on that next month as we celebrate Harvest Festival on Sunday October 7th the weekend of Apple Fair day.
At the end of this month the church remembers ‘Michael and all angels’ on 29th September, a day known as ‘Michaelmas Day’. In the gardens Michaelmas Daisies will abound and the spiders’ webs on the dew of the grass in the mornings may remind us of angels wings.
Angels are messengers from God, here’s hoping we will all be a little more angelic this month as somethings start a new and possibly the temperature drops a little. Please God!
Letter from the Vicar...July 2018
By now summer will be upon us and we can enjoy those lazy days and Barbeque evenings and holidays either at home or away. The year goes by so quickly, perhaps now half of it is past we should take stock and review our busy - ness.
At St Dunstan’s we started the year by appealing for donations of food for our nearest Food Bank. Each month our volunteer drivers have delivered the goods to ‘Nourish’ in Tunbridge Wells, thank you to them and to all of you who have donated, don’t stop now, summer time can be tricky for some families especially when children usually have free school meals during term-time, so they then have the cost of feeding their children at lunchtime for 6 weeks.
We have had an amazing success in fundraising, culminating with the ‘Fairport Convention’ concert when approx. £1700 was raised for church funds, and a stall at Nuts in May when another £200 was collected – thank you, and a good time was had by all.
It is one of my mottos that ‘FUNDRAISING is indeed FUN -RAISING too’, and a good way of us all to get together.
On May 27th we dedicated a new Altar Frontal, kindly donated to us by Alan Sanders in memory of his wife Gina. Thank you, Alan, it looks splendid.
Funds come in and funds go out. Across the 6 months we have been able to keep up to date with our bills and have been able to give away a significant amount to our Primary schools; £1000 enabling them from September this year to access counselling for pupils who have mental health issues, through the charity ‘Fegans’, £600 approx. to fund their ‘Living Eggs Projects’ and as we do every year around £550 for Bibles to all pupils leaving Primary school as they head off for pastures new in Secondary education.
As I write, we are preparing for the Festival of Flowers in June, I would like to thank the organising committee and all the community organisations in the town who have supported the event. A report on this will be in the next magazine.
‘The Friends of St Dunstan’s’ continue to organise lunchtime concerts and as a result of the generosity of those attending, The Friends accumulate funds that are then given to St Dunstan’s church for projects such as any major repair work to the organ or the church building. Our thanks go to The Friends.
I hope you all answered a questionnaire asking members of our community here in Cranbrook, just what they want St Dunstan’s church to be and do, there are still some copies in the church if you missed our presence at the Neighbourhood Development Plan meeting at the Vestry Hall at the end of June.
I think after all that we all deserve summer and its holidays. I pray they may be holy - days for you, and time to be lazy and refresh yourselves, ready for the busy-ness again of the autumn!
Enjoy the summer
With love Revd Ann
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