At the end of last month our beloved vicar Jill Carman died. She was suffering from terminal cancer but still her passing was a shock to us all. On the day before she died she jointly lead a 'Service for times of Need' in St Catherine's chapel where she prayed for all those there and offered blessing by the laying on of hands along with the Revds Ali and Michael. The service was peaceful and the people present were moved by the quiet peace and gentle encouragement that it offered.
The service was a recognition that life is not easy and that there are many griefs and trials to be born in our mortal lives and in the lives of those we love. We are not promised material blessing or physical healing from God but we are offered a firm psychological hand to hold and a path to wholeness and well-being that may include the restoration of our lives. The following words are from the forward to the service that was developed in the lona community in Scotland.
'We all stand in need of restoration and in this ministry we recognise that this also has a social dimension. The healing of divided communities, the healing of the earth itself, has a place alongside the mending of broken bodies, hurt minds and wounded hearts and of the hurts and divisions within ourselves. So too our prayers are complementary with the work of medicine and other forms of healing, which are also channels of God's loving and transforming action. In this service anyone may name particular people and places and situations for which prayers are specifically asked. We do this because each person and situation is known to God, not as a problem to be solved but as a focus for God's acceptance and love. We are nof seeking to change God but to change the world; and we trust God that our prayers will be heeded, although we do not know when or how that will happen'.
The prayers that we said offered this plea, God of compassion and love
we offer you all our suffering and pain.
Give us strength to bear our weakness,
healing even when there is no cure,
peace in the midst of turmoil,
and love to fill the spaces of our lives
For Jill there was 'Healing when there is no cure' and we are thankful for this even as we acknowledge that it is hard for those of us left behind; for her beloved family whom she adored and her village and church community whom she served with grace and fortitude even in her pain.
As we live in this fleshy, mortal world where life is a precious gift for a season so we dare to say that death can be a healing and that there is love and grace in mourning.
PS If you ever want a place to talk about death and dying then please do contact the church, we are here to help in many practical ways and to offer a listening ear for as long as you need it.
On our Haven benefice web site we say that we are an ‘open and inclusive church’. For those people who know about these things it means that we are fully accepting and welcoming of all people regardless of gender, sexuality, race or culture. Which means, to put it clearly so that we can't be misunderstood, that we in these churches recognise that God's grace and blessing, love and acceptance is for all people. The Church of England is a present undergoing a long hard look at itself with regards to its attitudes towards the Blessing of same sex civil partnerships and theological responses to the growing public debate around sexual and gender identity. As yet here is little clarity and guidance from the governing centre of the church but with the appointment of our new archdeacon, who comes to us with his male partner, it seems that individual churches need to speak out.
A sermon on Pride that I preached last year, that is available on this web site, makes clear the position I hold. This is that it is not enough to be quietly inclusive, we need to make this known. The reason for this is that the assumption of the public is that the church is discriminatory and if we don’t say that we are not, we will be colluding with a picture of God's exclusive favour that we fundamentally disagree with. We hold this inclusive and graceful understanding of God as a cornerstone of our witness to the world and of our love for all creation.
We in the Haven Benefice welcome our new archdeacon and his partner to the island and look forward to his wisdom and insight among us. His installation service is on the 18th May at the Minster in Newport at 5pm.
A year from my arrival in the parishes, the comments below are now published on the web site under the title About Us. They are the fruit of our time together and the way that we see these churches serving their communities into the future....
In a world of busyness, change and growing meaninglessness, the Parish churches of Seaview, St Helens, Brading and Yaverland offer a Haven of peace, stability and progressive Christian search for Faith. In order to do this we prioritize the following things....
We are committed to maintaining our beautiful historic buildings and sensitively enhancing them so that they remain open for anyone who wishes to enter any time of the day. We offer rituals of meaning that hold a space for thanksgiving, celebration and mourning and are very pleased to try and ensure that these baptisms, blessings, weddings and funerals are personal and relevant. We like to work with parishioners to help them craft these ceremonies so that they are contemporary and meaningful. We prioritize pastoral care and being agents of compassion in our communities.
We understand our role in the community as one of Serving and Blessing.
We appreciate that we are just temporary stewards of these holy places and respect the traditions of the historic church. We offer services on a Sunday from the Common Worship book and many of them are sung communions. Our clergy and choir are robed for these services and our tradition here is middle Anglican. In addition to our Sunday services we have week day communions that are quiet and more informal and a Thursday evening contemplative prayer service that draws on the ancient monastic traditions of silent meditation and contemporary understandings of the mind and human thriving.
We understand our worship as one of enriching the lives of people so they can live life in all is fullness.
We are passionate about being relevant to present day society and to developing new ways in which the teaching and life of Jesus can be visualized in an increasingly secular society. We understand that much of the language, theology and imagery of the historic church now has little resonance with contemporary society and the culture of younger generations. We are moving forward with progressive theology and looking at ways in which science, philosophy, psychology and politics impact the historic beliefs of the church. We are open and inclusive, and see God as manifest in all things, present and active. We ore comfortable with interfaith dialogue and respect other faith traditions and believe in working with all people of good faith towards a world infused with peace and love. We ore committed to working for a society of justice and especially for environmental healing worldwide and on our Island.
We understand our Faith as developing and moving forward into exciting new expressions of belief centred on the Life and teachings of Jesus and God present in all creation.
If anything in the above sparks your interest do come and see what we are up to or contact me for a chat anytime.
A big "Thank You" to everyone who sponsored the Haven Benefice team of three to undertake the Mean Bean Challenge of eating nothing but rice and beans for five days during Lent to help people who face a daily battle against hunger and poverty.
I recently went to a morning's workshop in a church building and found we had been locked in. When I queried this I was informed it was to keep us safe "as people sometimes wandered in from the street to use the toilets". Sometime later I learnt that this same church only allows church groups to use its facilities; and locks its doors to the general public, except during services. I felt incensed and provoked to write this article and revisit my own attitudes to church buildings.
I was brought up to believe that church buildings were God's House and therefore needed to be treated as such - kept spotlessly clean, tidy, and silent when in use. And when not in use to be locked away from anyone who might perchance wander in, and not give the building the respect it deserved. So ingrained was this teaching that I carried it with me into adulthood, albeit subconsciously. During a recent discussion with a group using the church I am ashamed to say that I heard myself say — "No, I have not unlocked the inner doors to the toilet but access can be gained from the outside". This article is the result of my shame and need to revisit this view.
St Peter's is the Parish church of Seaview, and therefore belongs to the Parish. But what does this really mean? I have come to understand that every member of the Parish is a church member and therefore has right of access to the building — not only on a Sunday but at all times, - by appointment and arrangement for weddings, baptisms and funerals, and by spontaneous desire, when Parishioners feel the need to sit in the peace and quiet of the church or it's gardens. That is why as a worshipping community we aim to maintain it to the highest possible standard, and keep the gardens well cared for - for the benefit and enjoyment of everyone in the Parish and elsewhere.
But, of course ownership brings responsibility and we are grateful to those in the community who help us with cleaning the church, looking after the garden, providing and arranging the flowers and locking and unlocking the doors, delivering the Parish Magazines and financial support through coffee mornings and donations.
Some years ago I visited an abbey in France. It was a hot day and in the cool of the courtyard I found a jug of ice-cold water and a plate of home made cookies. Next to them was a sign welcoming visitors and offering hospitality in Christs' name. Yes, the church is God's house and as such should be a living example of Christ's love for all. We hope that is true of St Peter's and that you will find us a living, loving community of which you are a part. And by the way please feel free to use our toilets!