As I write this Autumn has suddenly descended and for all its beauty and calm there is the growing sense of unease that we are headed towards a hard winter, a confusing one and a time of fear and loneliness for some. With all its trails our summer lockdown had many things to ease the hardship; glorious weather, clarity of instructions and the knowledge that we were all ’in the same boat’. This winter we are going to have to show a much deeper and more individual resilience and find a balance of life that is flexible enough to accept the challenges as they arise. I have included in our latest Parish Magazine a piece from the Spiritual teacher Richard Rohr that helps with this, it is from the Christian tradition, but the wisdom is universal.
This magazine also reflects the difficulties that many of our focal charities and community organisations are facing, both in their inability to meet and financially. Please remember that there are continuing overheads for all our community buildings even if they are having to remain closed and so many fundraising opportunities have been missed. In the churches we have a major deficit in the Diocesan budget that will have long term effects on ministerial appointments and increase pressure to close churches. To be frank and clear, in the Portsmouth Diocese we are nearly £2,000,000 short out of a budget of seven million and the bulk of the income each year is from the ‘Share’ paid from your local churches, that in this benefice amounts to £70,000 a year. This is the money that we need to raise from out congregations and coffee mornings before we even begin to pay for our overheads and maintain our beautiful listed buildings. This is clearly unstainable in the current climate and so we are looking to make big changes and look to ways in which we can be creative and imaginative with what we have so that we have resilience into the future.
The reason for our passionate longing for churches to remain in the heart of our communities is so that they may be a place of calm and peace, and of challenge and hope. For this reason, we are committed to keeping all or churches open during the day and continuing the new rota of Sunday services. We hope that even with limited local lockdowns we will be able to continue this and warmly invite you to pop in to see a friendly face. We are also committed to resisting fear and looking to a new future for us all; one in which we accept the limitations of a environmentally aware new normal that reduces our impact on the natural world and enjoys a return to lives rich in time, relationships and creativity. For this reason, the Benefice market at St Mary's stocks the Local, Organic, Animal friendly and Fairtrade (LOAF) store cupboard and plastic free household essentials we need, and the clothes and useful items we can share.
It encourages crafting and ‘pickling’ in the conversations we share, finding joy in knowing that we have skills to clothe ourselves and grow and store our food. It is a model for a just trading environment and an advocate for lives where we live peacefully through sharing and in community. We are also continuing to live our hope for the future as money already committed is spent on refurbishing St Helen's church. This is so that those visiting the graveyard and using the building for community gatherings and services can have the convenience of a toilet and somewhere to make refreshments. In St Helens the community centre is being renovated by the Community payback team, and they are doing a great job for which we are really grateful and the committee have worked hard to ensure that the Covid risk assessments are in place so it is open again for hire; as is the chapel for private prayer and the Wednesday communions. At St Peter's we are looking to develop the Undercroft as a residential dwelling to bring in some much-needed income to support the ongoing upkeep of the church hall and church. Added to this a community orchard being planted in Brading (maybe with sheep to keep down the grass and give us wool and mutton!), a community herb garden and the church is developed to display the history of Brading..... and finally there is the enrichment of the small and peaceful Yaverland church thanks to our associate Priest Rev Barry and family with a hospitality area where travellers can make a cuppa and a peaceful prayer garden to sit in.
All this is done through a fugal approach; reusing, recycling and accepting gratefully the gift of volunteer time and financial donations.
If this looks like something you want to be part of then do get in touch, we are gathering from all walks of life and diverse faith as we become a community committed to a new future. Pop in to the Market at St Mary's and say hello (the afternoons are quietest).
The great universality of the concept of ‘One God’ who is the parent to all people is a gift of Christianity that it has never been able to live up to. It means that all humanity are brother and sister to each other and that there can be no elevated status or sense of superiority; no segregation, discrimination or racism.
During the COVID pandemic, for a brief moment this sense of kinship erupted and loving kindness became a dominant theme in pcople’s lives. The churches, the statutory agencies and the volunteer networks in our rural community expected to be overrun with calls for help from lonely and isolated people, but the phones did not ring. In close inspection it appeared that there was an outpouring of neighbourliness. As people were furloughed and were not required to work it seemed that all we needed to take care of each other was time.
There was also a sudden and overwhelming thankfulness for those people who were judged by society to be essential. The carers, the healthcare workers, rubbish clearers, the cleaners, delivery drivers, farmers, horticulturalists and grocery shop assistants. This has led to some people reviewing their lives, jobs and priorities and even prompted a call for a shift in our education system. For a brief moment, as we confronted a fearful viral enemy, we remembered things that we have always known, like... it is not your achievements, but character that matters, that it is not things, but relationships, not charisma but kindness, not wealth but spiritual riches that will pull us through.
This wave of kindness is a terribly fragile thing, it is a whisper drowned out by the rowdy machine of commerce and the chattering demands of our egos.
But all these fruits of kindness are the basic stuff of the Christian faith, they are the teachings of Jesus that have been ‘thrown out with the bathwater’ by current generations who are unable to stomach doctrinal impossibilities and religious hypocrisy. Post-COVID, the church can retain the remembrance of this time of kindness in its teaching and living and it is time for the church to speak out boldly for equality and the worth of every person in the very fabric of its intuitional life.
For this reason there must be and will be changes in the churches.... Good ones! Changes that I hope we will all enjoy and that will support the building of the kinds of communities that we dream of living in, long into the future.
'A revolutionary concept market offering local people a space to acquire the basic goods that we need to sustain and nurture ourselves, while at the same time caring for other people and the planet by leading more simple lives’.
It is a church led community enterprise inspired by the teachings of Jesus.… it is also hard to explain so come and see us and if you have clothes or useful bits or books to donate we would love them.
See you there
19 July 2020
ST MARY'S MARKET
a church led community enterprise inspired by the teachings of Jesus
St Mary's market is a revolutionary concept market offering local people a space to acquire the basic goods that we need to sustain and nurture ourselves while at the same time caring for other people and the planet by leading more simple lives.
We aim to sell, swap and barter only fairly traded, locally produced, organic, or donated items which will contribute to a zero-waste or circular model of economics
Locally grown fresh vegetables Preloved clothes and bric-a-brac Donated books for sale or swap Fairtrade and organic store cupboard basics A refill point for essential household cleaning and soap products without plastic waste A place for local people to showcase their creations
The market is run by volunteers and welcomes everyone interested in helping at the market or on other church ventures. We invite all volunteers to become involved in the collective management and decision-making for this initiative.
This is a non-commercial enterprise run by the local church. Any profits will be used to develop St Mary's as a place for prayer, learning, inspiration and sharing.
The market will be a place to encourage localisation, self-reliance, low-impact living, and the sharing of creative talents in our community. Look out for workshops, classes, films and speakers to support our efforts to lead lives that inspire us and others as we are first inspired - by God.
Please click the button below if you would like to support the work of St Mary's Market by making a secure online donation by debit or credit card.
'Live simply that others may simply live' - Mahatma Gandhi 'If we want to be at peace we will have to waste less, spend less, use less, want less, need less' - Wendell Berry 'I have come that they may have Life, and have it abundantly' - Jesus
Many of us felt that the closing of the rural churches in our small towns and villages was something that was unnecessary and lacked a full understanding of the place of our buildings in the life of the community. But, now they are open again.
This pandemic has made me think deeply about the place of the church in our communities and its role in the rebuilding of our common lives. As I went round and gave them all a good root tidy and clean up ready for the wonderful church cleaners and flowers arrangers to safely enter and make them beautiful. I was deeply moved by the stability and grounded nature of the spirituality that they bare witness to. Human lives have changed dramatically around them; our meaning, as living breathing people, has changed on the surface and in our day to day existence. From the Normans who built Brading church to the Victorians that built in Seaview human history is documented, the ‘progress’ of our western society to this the pinnacle of opulence written in their walls.
But some things just don’t change …. EVER. The human need for a place to celebrate and mourn, the relentless seeking after meaning and the desire to help others, are all raising to the surface, emerging from a culture swamped by greedy quick fixes and easy answers.
To a world looking for deeper answers I say come with us for we are ‘followers of the way’ (as the first disciples were called). Our churches sole purpose is the remembrance of a man called Jesus who told us of the primary importance of every life and of all life. A man whose teaching on justice and human well-being is unsurpassed. A man who inspired a movement for peace and reconciliation, for simplicity and Joy that has never quite been swamped by the corrupt power of Christendom and the establishment created in His name. Like the first followers we say that he has not died but lives on through us in spirit; our lifes work is to strive to live the love of ourselves, our neighbours and our enemies that he taught us was the Love of God.
So we throw open the Doors … literally and metaphorically and say Welcome; to all from every strata of society, every creed and colour, every expression of loving relationship and gender, young and old, ‘sinner and saint’! These churches, graveyards and gardens are tended for you.
We are here… A place of stillness and contemplation; as we listen in the ‘sound of utter silence’ for the guidance of Gods spirit deep within us.
We are here….. Standing in the graveyard honouring a life that has passed as the birds sing and the grass grows beneath our feet; the relentlessness gift of life calls us to lift our heads in the midst of grief.
We are here…. working for Global enviromental justice as we learn to tend our own God given patch of earth and tread lightly on the precious lives of others.
It has been a huge sadness for us that we have had to close the church during this crisis, but I do hope that some of you have been able to enjoy our outside spaces as this beautiful spring has unfolded. The community garden is being tended and is there for you to enjoy. The mange tout peas are ready to pick and the ruby chard and tomatoes will not be far behind…. oh and if you are lucky there may be a strawberry! Remember this is is a ‘Garden for You’, come and harvest (and weed!) and sit under the shade of the birch tree; make yourself at home.
We are also working to get the new ‘St Mary's Meadow’ open for you. The entrance will be through the graveyard to the field that leads to the stream. We have some fencing and a compost dog bin and some strimming to do and then it will be another place for you to ‘get out of the house’ and meet a friend in the safety of the outdoors. Bring your garden chairs, the children and a picnic; do you remember lying in the grass making daisy chains and watching beetles and butterflies? Bring your paints and your knitting or just stretch out and sunbathe. We have all learnt so much during this time of enforced stillness as we have cared for each other and had time to notice ourselves and our environment. Everything that we do in and around the church will continue to remind us that our neighbours are precious to us, that our local environment is a fragile gift and that life is something to be truly thankful for and celebrated. There will be lots of new things happening… watch this space.
The new entrance from the graveyard into the field
One thing that has been a huge blow, however for the church, due to this crisis, and on through the rest of this year, has been our financial position. For years the loyal and generous congregation have kept the church building maintained but as we look into the future that will no longer be the case. The historic building of St Mary’s and the graveyard maintenance costs approximately £20,000 a year with insurance, grass cutting, yearly repairs and a contingency for the bigger jobs on the fabric of the building. Each church in the country is an independent charity that receives no financial help from the central church. In order to secure the future of the church for the town the Friends of St Mary's was formed and all the money raised goes to pay for these maintenance costs. None of the money goes to the vicar or towards the services or the diocese… it all stays in your town to protect your beautiful church for the future. All of the fundraising activities that had been planned, and the regular giving, has been decimated by this pandemic and the future looks seriously uncertain. If just 200 people pledged £10 a month… £2.50 a week….. then we could meet those costs and the church would be safe. Please consider helping. There are leaflets outside the church with membership and direct debit details or you could easily set up a standing order now, with your name as the reference, to the account 20-79-31, 10205842 and we could sort the paperwork for your membership later. (email revamorley(at)gmail(dot)com or txt 07500007437 to let me know)
Everything that we are planning and dreaming about is for you, because God is not a distant imaginary being, but the Spirit of Life that we all share and is in All Things. The church celebrates life, witnesses to the of lives of the past and holds our memory as we die; it cherishes our well-being and is here for us when we are lost or lonely…… It is here for you.