Over 2000 years ago, the shock discovery of an empty tomb by Jesus’ close female companions caused pain and confusion. Instead of a sealed and guarded tomb containing his body, they found it open and empty, save the cloth used to wrap him in death. It was bad enough that Jesus, their teacher and Lord was dead. Now it seemed, someone had taken the body.
Why that tomb was empty is of utmost importance. If it was empty because someone had indeed stolen Jesus’ body – if a criminal’s death and an ordinary burial was all that took place over those three days then hope died with him on the cross. Trust in all he had said was destroyed – His promises nothing more than a devasting and life-shattering let-down.
Individuals and communities across the world will greet Easter day with shouts of ‘Alleluia! He is Risen!’. Many of us, Christian or not, will give Easter Eggs, the hollow egg is traditionally a symbol of that empty tomb.
We shout ‘He is risen!’ because beyond all expectation, hope did not stay dead. The impossible happened on that first Easter day. It blows our rational minds to even think it – despite some very compelling (and rational) evidence that supports it! The first disciples took some convincing too - Jesus appeared to them several times, but had to let them touch him and eat with them to bring the divine reality home.
He is alive! – His words were true! He was indeed part of God’s own self who came to us in love, to give us hope and reassurance for the future, for each day.
And for that we celebrate! Do join us!
Easter Day Family Services ~ 10am Dullingham Church with choir, bells and egg hunt!! ~ 10.30am Burrough Green Church with egg hunt!!
Below is my report to our Annual PCC Meetings:
The Annual Parochial Church Meetings provide a good opportunity to look back and reflect on the past year. As I do so I am overwhelmed with thankfulness at God’s great faithfulness and for you all as we meet and minister together as Christ’s church and people. Thank-you to each and every one of you for all that you are, all that you bring and all the many and varied things that you do. A special thank-you to Lily for her administrative support and our Churchwardens and PCC’s for overseeing the good running and purpose of our churches. Thank you too for all who financially support the church and its mission.
By God’s grace a lot has taken place this year. Our children and youth ministry has included Family Service’s, Messy Church, Monthly weekday Holy Communion (an unexpected joy!), Children’s Choir Festival, Baptism Preparation, Confirmation Classes and School’s work with Burrough Green and Kettlefields.
Fellowship and Community Groups have included Monday Morning Prayer, Advent and Lent Courses and Confirmation Classes. We joined Newmarket Churches Together and are represented on Newmarket’s Interfaith Forum. Outside of church many of our members are involved in community and interest groups.
Sally Peyton became the Group Safeguarding Officer as we work to fulfil all our safe guarding obligations. Alix Allan became a Pastoral Visitor having completed the ALM Pastoral Worker course. Anthea Kenna and Alastair France joined the ministry team having completed Occasional Preachers training and a group are starting Bell ringing training in Brinkley!
Our fantastic website www.raddesley.com was launched, thank-you to Liz for this and we receive over 50 ‘hits’ a week, a good reminder to keep it up to date! The monthly news sheets continue to provide information across the parishes.
It was wonderful to see so many of our communities join us for the special Centenary Remembrance Services this year, our beacon/fire lighting and bell ringing joining in with a wave of national celebrations. Christmas Events and Services were well organised and attended. Easter saw the addition of Pancake and Pledges and the Easter Rise Service. We also held a Healing, Baby Loss Memorial and All Souls’ Service to help support people’s life journey’s. A stand out event was the presentation and celebration of Lily’s well deserved BEM Award during the Christmas Tree Festival.
Over the year we had three Weddings, and whilst I wish I could say ‘and a funeral’ sadly we had nineteen funerals across our villages. We had seven baptisms and at the deanery Confirmation Service held in our Group, we had two adults and two children confirmed.
Fundraising across the group has included Fetes, Fayres, Auctions, Bands, Draws and a village Christmas Card! I remain impressed at all the energy and organisation which goes into these events raising much needed funds for our churches, thank-you.
Whilst we celebrate and give thanks for all these things and so much more! We continue to face some significant challenges especially in regards to our financial resources. We were unable to meet the parish share in full as a Group this year, and are unlikely to do so in the year ahead. We are already prayerfully and boldly considering new ways to raise money as a Group to reduce the burden on individual churches. The year ahead will tell if we have enough energy and support to do this.
Of excitement for next year is the new ‘Open the Book’ teams who will be going into Burrough Green and Kettlefields schools to share God through bible stories. Expanding worship opportunities with occasional services like meditative Taize and to make our churches more accessible to all (e.g. becoming more dementia friendly) as we register as Inclusive Church.
Thank you again for all you are and all you do in service to God,
May God bless and multiply all you do.
Marie Kondo, (for those who aren’t yet indoctrinated!) is a Japanese tidying and decluttering expert who has made millions encouraging people to find joy and peace in cleaning and organising their homes. Her advice is to hold each item and determine whether it sparks joy or not before deciding whether to keep it and then to take a moment to thank each piece you do let go for the part it played in your life. Interesting!
What if we applied this logic more widely in our life? In letting go of versions of ourselves that are no longer us, of who we can or desire to be? Thanking our past as we gently lay it down to create space and opportunity for something new?
In some ways that is what Lent offers us, a chance (40 days!) to do an internal audit, a spring clean of our lives. To simplify life for a time, be it in removing or reducing the distractions that can cloud our view of self, of God (rich foods, alcohol, smartphones, Netflix!). The aim is to give time and space to realign and to appreciate the simple beauties and purpose of life. To spiritually breathe in the love of God and to bask in the full beauty of spring…
Our lovely group of six historic churches, (Brinkley, Burrough Green, Carlton, Dullingham, Stetchworth and Westley Waterless) we hope are welcoming places for all, whether for a service, a quiet spiritual space or in historical interest. Over hundreds of years they have and continue to offer a space to seek and meet with God, to pray and to mark life’s journeys.
As a member of the parish you can be baptised, confirmed, have your funeral (and still burial in all of them) if you desire. Many of you and generations before you will also have been married in them.
Like any historic building, maintenance and insurance to keep them safe and open runs into thousands of pounds, each year. But the building is more than its walls; it is a faithful community of past, present and future people who care for God’s mission of love to the community both within and outside of the building.
Our churches are also part of the wider church of God, of the Church of England; as part of this we are supported by priests (past, present and future), bishops, safe guarding teams, children and youth teams, etc. All that comes with running a big organisation costs, particularly with regard to personnel, training and pensions. Every church is asked to pay a contribution towards these ongoing costs in the form of ‘The Parish Share’.
The payment of the Parish Share is essential to keep the churches open into the future, to pay for all the above including the priests who have supported our communities in the past and to ongoingly maintain the presence of one albeit part-time across the group, currently myself, Nikki.
The group cost of our Parish Share this year is £39 317 !! (Dullingham £9041, Stetchworth £8306, Brinkley £6542, Burrough Green £6542, Carlton £4443 and Westley Waterless £4443).
Yes! This cost is on top of the ongoing daily costs, heating, insurances and maintenance of our churches. We have a small but generous group of faithful people who give regularly (bless you and thank-you for this, it is seen and appreciated), kind legacies, and regular fundraising, but still unfortunately our group fell short of the full amount last year and looks like doing so again going forward. Unless, and yes, this where you come in!! we have wider community support to help to raise funds.
We are looking to hold a big event in 2020 to try to raise half the Parish Share which then makes meeting the rest and other costs more feasible. £20,000 is a huge amount to raise, so we are looking for event ideas and organisers, sponsorship, a venue and, of course, we are very happy to receive donations big or small (if gift aided this increases the gift by 25%) and the consideration of leaving a legacy to your church in your will.
If you would like to help with any of these things, or would like to know more, we would be most grateful, please contact Revd Nikki, or one of our churchwardens.
Many, many thanks,
On behalf of all our churches
I heard a great quote recently ‘Going to Church does not make you a Christian, anymore than going to McDonalds makes you a hamburger!’
This is particularly fitting as we soon move into the reflective season of Lent a time when we are invited to take stock of our lives, our faith, our footprint on the world. On the 3rd February we celebrate ‘The Presentation of Christ’ where Mary and Joseph take their son to the temple to present him to the Lord. This shows us how important ritual is, how important being faithful to one’s faith is. It is not just Mary, Joseph and Jesus who are touched on this occasion but also the older prayerful Simeon and prophet Anna who for years have prayerfully waited for a glimpse of the Messiah. And immediately they know it, they see it in this child Jesus and their hearts are filled with joy and they are at peace. That meeting with the Christ is enough for them to know that in this world and the next ‘All will be well’.
Yes going to church doesn’t make you a Christian, but meeting and receiving Christ does, and Church is a great place to do this (but don’t rule out in McDonalds either!). God can be found anywhere and everywhere, we just need to be open to the encounter.
May you encounter the joy and peace of God this month,
The Magi’s journey could not have been easy. The journey to Christ for all of us very often isn’t easy. They no doubt had to give up a great deal to find him, but nothing was more important to them than their spiritual quest. Moreover, they grasped the truth that, while they were searching, God had been leading them. It was God who lit the star, and God who encouraged them to set out on their journey, God (in Christ) who wanted to be found by them. One of the things that the wise men’s journey gave them was time. They reflected, they thought, perhaps they prayed. This is one of the great blessings of a spiritual journey or pilgrimage. Whatever our faith, we all need time to think about our lives, our purpose and our search for God. And from experience God never disappoints.
Have a blessed New Year,
It struck me as funny that many of us spend so much time ‘preparing’ to be as ready as possible for a ‘perfect Christmas’ but that first Christmas when Jesus was born was actually so far from being perfect and prepared! We have the unmarried heavily pregnant teenager Mary carrying a baby which is not Joseph’s, travelling miles from home to be counted for the Roman census. There is no Trivago or Booking.Com, all the places to stay are full and as we know baby Jesus the King of the world is born not in luxury but in dirt and straw. The first Christmas was raw not perfect. It may be that circumstances this year mean that ‘raw’ is closer to how you feel, God meets you there. It maybe that circumstances mean this is a particularly special Christmas filled with the joy of angels , God meets you there.
God was incarnate in Jesus (That is, God came to us in bodily form in Jesus) to meet us, whatever our circumstances however prepared or unprepared we are, however raw or joyous we are. The Christmas message is one of love, God loves us and came to us, and comes to us still.
Christmas blessings of love to you all,
A Time of Remembrance
November always strikes me as a pensive month as we remember both those we have loved at All Souls Memorial Services and those who gave and continue to give their lives for our freedoms at Remembrance Services.
This is of course a particularly special year marking 100 years of Remembrance and the ending of WW1. A number of our churches have a Tommies Silhouette in them, the image of the ‘unforgotten soldier’ is always a poignant one. My great grandfather a private in the Sussex Regiment died on the battlefields in November 2016 aged 27 just one of millions of casualties, husbands, sons, fathers…. It must all have looked so bleak and helpless.
On 4 August 1918 King George V called a National Day of Prayer. One hundred days later the war ended. On 23 May 1940 with allied armies trapped on beaches King George V1 called for a National Day of Prayer and apparently congregations overflowed, the same day 800 vessels answered the call to evacuate Dunkirk.
When things look and feel helpless we need more than ourselves, we need the Divine and we need each other. Let us never be afraid to ask of either.
They shall grow not old as we that are left grow old.
Age shall not weary them, nor the years condemn.
At the going down of the sun and in the morning,
We will remember them…
Peace be with you,
On our website I found a lovely message celebrating my being with you for a year! How lovely it was to read, to receive flowers and touching words from the group of churches. Thank-you all. We love it here! The year has flown by, it has been wonderful getting to know so many of you, to share in the ups and downs, the sorrows, the joys and the everyday of our lives.
Encouragement is such a lovely thing, words are so meaningful. With them we can build each other up, give love, comfort and support or we can use them to hurt, to tear another down. To lighten a sermon about ‘the tongue’ recently I googled in ‘the world’s most ridiculous quotes’ and Donald Trump appeared in the first 8. Need I say more!! I’m not giving space to his but here are a few of my own favourite ‘being kind’ quotes:
My grandfather’s ‘If you can’t say something positive about someone don’t say anything at all’.
A Native American plaque ‘ Never judge a man until you walk two moons in his moccasins’
Social Media post ‘In a world where you can choose to be anything, choose to be kind’
As Jesus said ‘Love your neighbour as yourself’ (this also implies you should love yourself too, God does 😊)
Blessings of Kindness,
These are some words from my recent sermon:
It is at pivotal moments in our lives and our decisions to act with or without integrity, to choose to say or do the right thing, to not misuse our power that can display our character.
What power? It is sometimes easier to see the power we do have in comparison to those who have little or none.
Do you have a home? Be a voice for the homeless. Do you have money in the bank? Be a voice for those living in poverty.
Do you have food in your cupboards? Be a voice for the hungry. Do you have family? Be a voice for the orphan, the lonely, the refugee.
Can you walk down the street without being abused? Be a voice for the trans community, the woman in the hijab… and so on and so forth.
Just a few short weeks later Boris Johnson made his comment about women in hijab’s, following which attacks on those wearing them increased. Regular reported tweets from the Whitehouse are personal and offensive. Distant bullying on social media is invasive causing harm and distress.
Our words matter. They can cause pain and hurt or they can build up and transform. Proverbs 12 says ‘A gentle tongue is a tree of life, but perverseness in it breaks the spirit’. In other words, kindness and respect in how we talk to and speak of each other doth indeed maketh the man, woman and child.
Revd Nikki Mann
Nikki is the Priest in Charge of the Raddesley Benefice (which consists of 6 churches) in Cambridgeshire