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!
There is so much more to spirituality and a life of faith than just Sunday mornings! There are books to read and practices of prayer to learn and lifestyle choices to be debated and shared. A healthy spiritual life helps to support us mentally and physically and gives life meaning but it also takes a bit of time and space to help it grow.
The churches of the Haven Benefice offer lots of opportunities for people to come together in free activities that anyone is very welcome to come and be part of. They are listed in our new leaflet available in the churches and summarised for you here.
Why not have a new beginning this year?
Happy New Year,
The Book Group Meeting at 7pm on the first Monday of every month in the Undercroft of St Peter's Church, Seaview and 10.45am in the church hall, Brading on the first Wednesday of the month. The book group is designed as a drop in discussion of the book of the month. The chosen book will be advertised by email, on the web site and in the pew sheets. If you fancy having a look at the book just let Ali know and come along to the discussion.
Film Club Meeting at 7pm once a quarter at times and venues to be advertised. The chosen film will be advertised by email, on the web site and in the pew sheets. After the film there will be a discussion and refreshments for those who wish to stay.
Prayer Group at Brading On the Second Monday of the Month, 7pm in St Mary's church or the hall. A prayer group meeting to share the concerns of the world near and far. Lay led on rotation, this is a gentle time of refreshment and fellowship. Open to all, just pop in.
Bible Study Seaview A friendly and informal look at the readings for the coming Sunday held in Seaview at 10.30 am on Monday mornings. Contact Sylvia for more details on 612600.
Wednesday Morning Communion Services St Catherine's Chapel St Helens 9.3Oam and St Marys Church Brading 10am. A short said service for quiet contemplation and fellowship
Contemplative Prayer Thursdays at 6pm in St Catherine's Chapel, St Helens. Using the ancient monastic practices of contemplation, this time of silent prayer for 30 minutes with time for sharing over coffee after, is designed for those seeking to learn more about how to pray silently.
'Living the Questions' Theology Evening Meeting at 7pm on the Third Monday of every month in the Undercroft of St Peter's Church, Seaview. With video material and with lots of space for discussion and questioning, this is the gathering for you if you would like to expand and deepen your horizons but it is also accessible and light.
Eco Church and Creation Spirituality The last Sunday of the Month at St Helen's Church 3.30-5.30pm Nature study, Crafts, Shared Meal and Thanksgiving. All ages welcome and especially designed for families Please text Ali (07500 007437) if you would like to be part of this so we know for food.
As I write this in November, we are approaching Remembrance Sunday and thinking about the 100th anniversary of the end of WW1. I'm sure you have heard the story of Christmas 1914, where a general truce was not officially called, but soldiers on both sides along the front line left their trenches to cross No-Mans Land; to offer one another friendship on Christmas Day. This act of humanity shows there is so much more to Christmas than just presents, food and parties. It is a time when we look for the best in each other and celebrate common humanity together. It is more than just a winter festival and a holiday, because Christmas remembers the birth of the man who gave to the world these stunning words of peace: 'Love your enemy and do good to those who hate you" . These words echo through the centuries, calling on all of us to be the best that we can be, and leading us to forgiveness and new peaceful beginnings this Christmas time.
So this Christmas and always in your churches all are welcome. Whether you are a frequent church goer or not, join us here to celebrate humanity, community and peace.
Sometimes I wonder if all people think we do in church is ask for money to try and keep the roof over our heads. I would love to say that this is completely untrue but in fact it isn't! We do spend quite a lot of our time on the committees of the church and with all the wonderful volunteers raising money to keep the fabric of our beautiful buildings from falling down. Every bill for the maintenance of the church is paid for by the local church, we receive no funds from the Diocese or National Church to do this. We keep these precious historic buildings in trust for the whole community thanks to coffee mornings and collections, concerts and donations.
So this is a piece to say THANK YOU... thank you all, for all you do to help us do this. Recently St Helens church received some very generous donations and has now raised half the money needed towards their refurbishment plans and are beginning the long and difficult process of grant applications to large organisations for the rest. They are also able, thanks to this generosity to do some very much needed work in the South transept to decorate the walls. This is not just a coat of paint, oh no. It is the removal of old paint and cement plaster and the re-plastering with lime plaster. This ensures that the precious fabric of the church can 'breath' and it is a specialised and costly business.
Walking into St Helens church today to work on plans I was struck once again by the deep peace and living silence that these churches hold in the heart of our communities and I am so thankful that through your generosity we are able to keep them open. I hope that you will appreciate the work that we are doing and continue to support us not just with money but also with your time and skills if you can.
In all the churches we are always looking for help and we will be advertising times when we will, all together, be painting, decorating and tidying the churches, halls, graveyards and gardens. If you have some time that you could spare us then we will provide the tea and butties!
So, look out for the exciting opening of the Undercroft kitchen at St Peters in Seaview, and for the decorating of the upstairs hall, Join us to refurbish the St Helens graveyard labyrinth and look forward to the £40,000 refurbishment of the St Marys organ just in time for Christmas. All this is possible because of You.... THANK YOU