AS I WRITE we are still bogged down in Lent but it will not be long
before we follow in the Way of the Cross. So good that all our three
churches are to spend the Triduum together. I admit that at first hearing I
had a tinge of regret that we were not able to keep the festivals in our own
beloved church. And then the flood of realisation that we all need to be
open to the thrill of Easter (‘the shock of the new!’). The reason so many
Easters have passed us by is that we have insulated ourselves against the
secret message of the Risen Christ. Like so many church-goers we know that
if we take the Festivals too seriously, we may have to change, forgetting
that it is those very festivals that bring us the new life and hope that
alone can save us from ourselves and incipient despair.
Maundy Thursday brings us new light on our usual Sunday worship. It puts
the Eucharist into its context in the Passion Story of Jesus. Instead of
being distant followers, we become active participants in the Journey to the
Cross. Also there is that foot-washing which never fails to bring a tingle
to my spine. His disciples always found Jesus unpredictable; the trouble
with us is that we shrug off anything that is different and may cause us to
think again! ‘Lord, you washing my feet?!’
I have got a pile of old and useless stuff in the shed waiting to be
taken to the tip. It is nothing to the black bags full of past stupidities
and shortcomings (I avoid the word ‘sin’!). I never quite know what to do
with it all. I try pretending it is not there or does not matter, but I keep
falling over it. There is a lot of self-centredness and thoughtlessness,
several bags of unkindness, both words and deeds, lots of waste, laziness,
failure to be generous and act as a responsible citizen or to respect the
planet and as for loving my neighbour! There are a few things I would rather
you did not know about but most of the stuff is all too obvious and everyone
sees our failure to be any sort of genuine human being. The only place I
have ever found where all this dangerous rubbish (and it is all beginning to
smell a bit) can be safely dumped is at the foot of the Cross. What does the
old hymn say? ‘At the feet I lay them and I LEAVE them there.’ It is called
forgiveness, one of those Christian words that are often talked about but
seldom taken up. But why else did He die on the Cross?
Without Easter I would never have realised that the Cross was not a
defeat but a victory. If Easter had not happened, Good Friday would still be
Christ’s conquest over sin, but we would not have known about it. Easter is
God’s secret, full of surprises. Read in the Gospels how the disciples were
always caught out by the Risen Christ. He turns up as gardener, traveller,
cook. This Easter watch out for him in unexpected people and places. It is
the eye of the imagination that reveals the Risen Life.
I shall never forget one Easter Sunday night about twenty years ago being
rung by a Churchwarden complaining about his new vicar and the way he had
changed all the Holy Week services and upset all the congregation. ‘I’m
sorry to bother you at this time but I just want you to know that if Jesus
Christ knew what was going on in our parish this Easter, he’d be turning in
In the Diocesan insert included in the paper version of this magazine,
Bishop Michael writes about his vision for a much ‘higher profile’ Easter
this year. If you have not already taken one, please take a car sticker and
put it in your car and also help yourself to the A4 posters that are
available for prominent display!
Bishop Michael also had the idea of every parish putting up a cross on
Palm Sunday in a place where it would be noticed. All Saints’ will
carry their cross as part of the Palm Sunday procession from the Cotswold
Grange Hotel in Pittville Circus Road. It will then be put up in front of
the church. St Nicolas’ is making use of their huge window space and
will display a cross on a banner worked on by the Sunday Club. St Mary’s
will join with the United Reformed Church, who are having a cross made and
painted white. On Palm Sunday (1st April) everyone is invited to meet at the
United Reformed Chapel in Deep Street at 10.30am for a very short joint act
of worship as the cross is put in place.
Bishop Michael’s idea is then for two things to happen to the cross
during Holy Week: for a crown of thorns to be added on Good Friday and for
flowers to be added on Easter Sunday, proclaiming the joy of Our Lord’s
resurrection. Again, everyone is invited to the United Reformed Church at
11.45am on Good Friday for a short joint act of worship as the crown of
thorns is added. On Easter Sunday, those who can are invited to attend at
10.30am when the cross will be decorated with flowers.
Lent is a very good time to make use of the Sacrament of Reconciliation
(confession). It is a way in which we can prepare personally for the Easter
celebrations, spending some time prayerfully examining our lives and then
bringing to God those things which especially come between Him and us.
Hearing the words of God’s forgiveness spoken personally to us can be a
A priest will be available at the following times:
|Monday 2nd April
|Tuesday 3rd April
|Wednesday 4th April
Alternatively you can make an appointment with one of the clergy. Please
do speak to them if you would like to talk about how to make your
Our theme about Moses at Celebrate! finished with a fascinating
and illuminating service where we learned about Passover. We were able to
understand, through re-enactment, the significance of the festival,
particularly the family meal of celebration.
Firstly we washed our hands, with most of the children preferring to do
this in the font! Then we tried matzo crackers with herbs and a sweet honey
mixture which represented the unleavened bread which the Israelites had to
make in a hurry for their journey. Finally we all tried some grape juice
which was a real hit with the younger audience.
The story of Moses has so many vivid and enthralling features: the baby
in the basket, the burning bush, the deadly plagues, the flight from Egypt
and finally the parting of the sea. All of these were brought to life
through a mixture of video, song and action at Celebrate! during
these past few weeks.
WE RECENTLY HELD a Finance meeting and discussed the Architect’s
recommendations following the Quinquennial Inspection. The total cost for
the work needing to be done at St Mary’s amounts to approximately £17,000.
This is, of course, on top of our normal running costs, which we sometimes
struggle to pay. It is a huge amount to find from our limited income, but
the longer we leave the work outstanding, the more costs will be incurred.
So we have to go ahead in faith that this money will be forthcoming. If you
feel that you can support this important task, please speak with Father
Michael, who will be delighted for any donations towards keeping St Mary’s
in good condition for our future generations.
Gold Cup Parking
Very many thanks to Jackie
Moles and all her helpers in the car park and to Gillian Jackson and her
helpers in the kitchen during Gold Cup Week. This year they raised £2513.77
from the car parking and £177 from the sale of refreshments, giving a grand
total of £2690.77 for church funds! Thank you all very much for all your
“Then the men feared the Lord exceedingly and they
offered a sacrifice and made vows.” Jonah 1:16 (RSV)
I wonder if you were surprised to see the Book of Jonah included in the
readings for the Bishop of Gloucester’s Praying Together in Lent. It
is not high on our preferred choice of lessons, this rather strange fable of
a singularly unattractive figure, cowardly in his flight from God, sulky and
obstinate when what happened wasn’t to his liking. We fail to look further
than our childhood picture of Jonah being swallowed by a whale and sitting
under a castor oil tree.
The whole book is a remarkable and relevant exploration of how Israel and
God interact with non-Jews and Jonah’s behaviour emphasises that the special
privileges of Israel are not a result of moral and religious superiority.
From a human point of view it is the pagan sailors who behave in an
exemplary fashion, calling on their gods and risking their lives for Jonah.
Yet it is Jonah who unwittingly aids their conversion. Three times the
narrator states that the sailors are afraid, each time more emphatically.
The first time it is physical fear of a tremendous storm. The second time it
is fear of the God of the storm whom Jonah reveals. Paradoxically the
greatest fear of all is at the end when the storm has ceased. The sailors
have come to a knowledge of the true God who controls the storm. (Jonah
The same kind of fear came upon the disciples of Jesus after he had
stilled the storm or the centurion who witnessed the death of Jesus. Those
who truly encounter the living Lord tend to be overwhelmed and the only
response is worship and a dedicated life.
Later in the book Jonah obeys God and tells the people of Nineveh that
their great city is doomed and will be destroyed (with, probably, a certain
amount of righteous satisfaction!) but cannot, then, accept God’s
recognition of Nineveh’s repentance. He refuses to believe that God’s
freedom and compassion can extend to a great pagan city like Nineveh even
when that city has shown repentance. He would avoid even giving them a
chance. And there is perhaps a lesson here for all of us. It is all too easy
to give up on individuals or classes of people and assume that they will not
accept the gospel or, if so, it will only be temporary. The Book of Jonah is
a magnificent lesson in the love of God for all men. It calls on the Jews to
abandon their exclusiveness, to bring God’s word to the Gentiles and to
rejoice when they accept the message. William Barclay calls it ‘the one
supremely missionary book in the Old Testament’. But Jonah also makes it
clear that repentance and a turning aside from sin are necessary responses
to forgiveness. ‘He does not want the death of a sinner but rather that he
should repent and live’ (Ezekiel 33:11) and for Jesus Jonah is a sign of the
call for conversion (Luke 11:29-32 and Matthew 16:4).
A reading of the Book of Jonah is appropriate as we approach Eastertide,
not only in its emphasis on the universality of God’s love, but also in the
extent to which Jesus compares his own death and resurrection with Jonah’s
time in the belly of the great fish (Matthew 12:40). Read the story of Jonah
with the Gospels in mind and allow new insights to emerge.
On Palm Sunday afternoon (1st April) from 2pm St
Mary’s will host various activities to help promote the Easter theme.
Refreshments will be served in the church and there will be the opportunity
to try out the Prayer Maze which is being prepared for our Infant and Junior
schools. The afternoon will also include some informal worship. Do come
along and why not bring a friend or neighbour?
As Easter is almost upon us, the Flower Arrangers wonder
if anybody would like to sponsor a lily in memory of a loved one. Last year
several of you thought it a good idea. As always, and especially at this
Festival, our church is a profusion of flowers and colour, and it may be
comforting to know that a loved one is remembered in this way. If you would
like to sponsor a lily please contact
Christian Aid 2007
The house-to-house collection week runs from 13 to 19
May and this year Christian Aid celebrates fifty years of ‘making a
difference’ to poor and needy communities all over the world. We are
reminded to help them ‘grow’, also to ‘grow’ more collectors, so that we can
make a greater impact!
We are always in need of collectors, Prestbury having
quite a large parish to cover, and this year some of our faithful helpers
may wish to do a bit less. So that each of us is not over-burdened please
could you consider joining us to collect from a road or street? If anyone
could take on organizing collectors for a list of ten small areas it would
Volunteers, please contact:
St Mary’s – Gill Ashman
St Nicolas’ – Paddy Spurgeon
Following on from the successful Education and Nurture
Event on Epiphany Sunday, Father Paul will present Garden of Delights
on Sunday 15 April in St Nicolas’ Church at 4.30pm followed by Easter
Tea and concluding with Carols for Easter at 6.00pm.
At our AGM in February Marion Beagley was re-elected as
Leader and Julie Jefferies as Treasurer. During the Eucharist following,
celebrated by Father Michael, a former member was readmitted and all members
renewed our MU vows.
The MU Wave of Prayer is on Sunday 15 April.
Prestbury’s slot is 10-11am and will be held in the Upper Room at St Mary’s.
Please enter via the kitchen as Celebrate! will be in progress in the
Our April meeting will be held on Tuesday 24 April
at St Mary’s Church at 7.30pm. Canon Pat Harris’s subject will be On a
Wing and a Prayer. All are welcome to join us.
St Mary’s Bakestall
This month’s bakestall at St Mary’s is on Sunday 15 April
with contributions from those with surnames G-M. Do contact one of us if you
would like to join the rota.
Margaret Waker & Linda Matthews
The next Parish lunch will be at the Royal Oak on
Sunday 20 May at 1.00pm. Please give names to Marion Beagley at
St Mary’s or Sue Bolton at St Nicolas’. A two-course lunch will cost £11.00
per head and the choice will be Roast Pork, Roast Lamb, Roast Turkey or
Please join us for this time of fellowship with other
It is with great regret and a very large helping of humble
pie that I have to confess to an error in the information given for Sidmouth.
In the magazine I correctly quoted the cost for an en-suite room to be
£110.00 per person. Unfortunately, due to incompetence, when I sent out the
information letter with the booking forms, I quoted £104.00 per head. Had
this been a small error I would have gladly made up the difference but as we
have 80 people booked into en-suite rooms (plus 20 into standard rooms) the
short-fall would amount to £480, which is rather too much for me to settle.
Therefore I am afraid that I shall have to ask all those who have booked
en-suite facilities to be aware of the increase of £6.00, when the bills are
settled. The amount for the standard room is, as quoted, £98.00 per person.
With my sincere apologies,