his is the time of year when our Benefice appears at its most ‘English’, with fetes, flower shows, dog shows, picnics and glorious open gardens making us feel that all is right with the world. Now I am not one to belittle all these traditional events, how could I with so many church members involved in days like the Froyle Open Gardens at the beginning of June? People showing off their beautiful gardens or enthusiastically volunteering to serve tea and a slice of delicious Victoria Sandwich, for anyone needing urgent refreshment.
We’re so fortunate, aren’t we, living in the midst of lush green countryside, with delightful walks on our doorstep, quaint pubs tucked away in picture-postcard villages and the convenience of high street shops nearby. But life is not so idyllic for everyone, not in the cities, conurbations or even in our own town and villages. When the sun is shining on a perfect garden and a typically English afternoon tea is spread before us, it is easy to forget that there is poverty and unhappiness not far away.
Luckily all of these summer events do a great job in raising money for various important charities and village organisations, as well as giving the participants a great deal of pleasure. And I also feel that the very ‘timelessness’ of these much loved occasions helps bolster the strength we need to face adversity. It brings to mind the well known lines from two of the nation’s best loved poems; both associated with a time of sunny innocence before the First World War, they both offer moments of a perfect England, which could be clung to during the dark times ahead:
And for that minute a blackbird sang
Close by, and around him, mistier,
Farther and farther, all the birds
Of Oxfordshire and Gloucestershire.
(Adlestrop – Edward Thomas)
Stands the Church clock at ten to three?
And is there honey still for tea?
(The Old Vicarage, Grantchester – Rupert Brooke)
These lines are made even more poignant by the fact that both men died serving their country in that terrible war. And that makes me reflect too, since we have been reminded of it recently with the extensive coverage of the D Day commemorations on both sides of the Channel, on the modest, self–effacing tributes from the elderly veterans who participated as they again reminded us of the truth of John 15:3, “Greater love hath no man than this, that a man lay down his life for his friends”.
And perhaps this is what we will experience as we attend our many local summer events both old and new. The ordinariness of it, the fact that everyone is playing their part in the knowledge that this will happen every year and will always be the same. And also the fact that our Churches are at the heart of this ordinary way of life, giving hope, helping everyone to pray and celebrating the role of the community.
Oh, and there is always honey for tea of course, and also Victoria Sandwich!
|Round-up of Church events
I hope everyone who wanted to do so experienced the splendour of Froyle Church’s unique array of Vestments, on display as always at the Froyle Open Gardens (see page 2). Do also come to the Pet Service on 14th July and, looking ahead to September, the Harvest Thanksgiving festivities.
Regarding other recent/current Church events:
(1) Our wonderful new Anna Chaplain, Nicky Smallwood (email: firstname.lastname@example.org, tel: 07765 058593), started at the beginning of May. Anna Chaplains support the spiritual needs of older people. Nicky works in the Benefice two days a week – she is very approachable; do get in touch if you or someone you know would like to have a chat with her. (
2) The prayer stations set up for the Benefice Week of Prayer in the first week of June in Bentley Church Hall (with one or two in Binsted and Froyle churches as well), were imaginative and thought-provoking – one can still be found in Froyle church. This is an annual event – worth visiting next year if you missed it this year.
(3) The Rogation Walk at the end of May took the form of an entertaining walk through the three parishes, with many dogs – some more unruly than others... Again, if you missed it, come along next year.
(4) Yann gave an uplifting and informative Talk on the Holy Spirit in Bentley church one Wednesday evening in early June. It was well attended and well received. I hope it encourages him to give more one-off talks of this kind.
(5) Teas on Tuesdays (cream teas held in Froyle church every Tuesday afternoon in June) remain a high point of the Froyle social season, despite the inclement weather. We hope to hold them again next year (with better weather), so put them in your diary – best scones to be found in Hampshire, and perhaps anywhere.....
(6) An 8 week Bible Course is currently running on Wednesday evenings at Bentley Church Hall. In a combination of presentational videos and group discussion, the course explores what the Bible meant to those who wrote it and what it means for us today – challenging stuff! If you would like to know more about this or other courses run in the Benefice, please contact email@example.com. And finally:
(7) More news for September: on 1st September, our two new Pastoral Assistants, newly married couple Sam and Gemma, start work in the Benefice. Gemma will focus on youth, Sam on worship. They will both provide a stimulating new dimension to each of the three churches in the Benefice.
I’m sure there’s more… Have a good summer, everyone.