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Prestbury Parish Magazine

February 2009

St Mary’s church nestling in the trees in the heart of Prestbury village

The trees in the woods will shout for joy when the LORD comes to rule the earth..

Psalm 96:12-13


Photograph:   St Mary’s church nestling in the trees in the heart of Prestbury village
by Edward Wyatt



The love of Christ surrounds us

St Mary’s Organist

2009 – The Year of the Child

Diocesan Synod – 6th December 2008

Handbell ringers at the ‘Real Christmas’

Finding Judas

Fr Andrew’s Licensing

Abounding in Steadfast Love

Some articles from this month's magazine have been included elsewhere in the web site:

Reports of North Cheltenham Churches football games including the Charity Cup win

Pictures from the Epiphany Supper

The Registers

The Calendar for this month

The Diary for this month



The love of Christ surrounds us

THERE is an ancient tradition of thinking about a new start at this time of year. For many it takes a practical turn, becoming conscious again of our bodies, re-committing ourselves to a healthy lifestyle and specifically trying to bring our weight down. For gardeners it is a time of preparing for the season of sowing and growing, the season of Lenten Springtime. So we make a sudden shift, a trick picked up by the film industry, from the aftermath of Jesus’ birth to the beginning of his ministry some thirty years on. The link between these two events, birth and baptism, is the start of something new, the coming of a new age, the fulfilment of God’s commitment to the world that he has made.

Jesus’ baptism is a powerful image: the Son of God has no need to make a new start, and yet here he is, presenting himself to John the baptizer, willing to undergo a ritual that speaks of surrender and obedience, of letting go, of resting in God, of being surrounded, filled, overwhelmed, drenched and overflowing with love. Like a dog shaking after its dip he showers this love over all around him and, whatever your reaction is, there is no ignoring it. If you were in Church for the Baptism of the Lord you will have experienced this first hand, the sprinkling of the water not only reminding you of your baptism but also making you wipe your face, clean your glasses or laugh at your neighbour. It is a sharp, playful reminder that Christian faith is not about a disembodied heaven or wishful thinking but about a God who grasps the nettle of this wounded world, whose viewpoint is not from above but at eye level with us, who calls us away from our comfort zones and challenges our self-importance, our self-hatred, our self-centredness. This is why the Diocese has chosen this month to encourage us to consider our place in God’s kingdom: to grasp again the big picture of which we are a part, and to think prayerfully about what this global Jesus-movement means at a local level.

A wise person once said that to be a Christian is to receive a free gift that costs everything. No wonder, then, that it is hard to communicate it to others. I think of a hymn that says ‘Love so amazing, so divine, demands my soul, my life, my all’. The point is not that we have to repay Jesus for his love for us. It would be actually more accurate to say ‘Love so amazing, so divine, demands nothing of me other than that I receive it’ (not so easy to fit to the music, I admit). To follow Christ is completely different from making a New Year resolution. It means being committed to being ‘ransomed, healed, restored, forgiven’, to letting yourself be immersed in him, learning to be carried on the current of his love to a world that is desperately thirsty.

Fr Daniel


St Mary’s Organist

Congratulations to David Smith on his appointment as organist and choirmaster at St Mary’s. David took up his post on 1st January and will be playing regularly for the 11 o’clock service and leading choir practices.



We welcome John Pout, who will be spending time in the Team as part of his preparation towards ordination. John is married with one son. He lives in Northleach and worships at St Lawrence, Bourton-on-the-Water, where he serves on the PCC, is a house-group leader and works with the youth group. He works full-time and so will be with us mainly on Sundays during February.


Jim Moore 29.02.1912 – 09.11.2008

Jenny and Maurice would like to thank all family and friends for their kindness and messages of sympathy when Jim died. We would also like to thank the clergy, the servers, John Wade and the choir, who helped to make Jim’s Requiem Mass a celebration of his life. Many thanks to everyone who attended the service and to all those who made donations to St Mary’s Church in Jim’s memory.


2009 – The Year of the Child

I hope you will have read the article by the Archdeacon of Gloucester in January’s edition of ‘Our Diocese’. Designating 2009 as the Year of the Child aims to keep the needs of children everywhere in the spotlight of publicity. As churches in our Diocese we are being encouraged very much to make this year one in which we focus on reaching and working with children in our parishes.

The Year of the Child in Gloucester Diocese will be launched at a service in Tewkesbury Abbey at 3pm on Sunday 1st February. We have been invited to bring some of our children to the service, to carry a banner during a procession and also to collect a special candle and a challenge. The challenge is to take the candle to as many places as possible in our area where children are present, light it and say a prayer written by Bishop Michael. There is a special prize for the most unusual situation where the candle is lit!

Anyone is welcome to attend the service on 1st February. Please can you let one of the clergy know if you are thinking of attending?

On Saturday 4th July there will be a big celebration in Gloucester Cathedral with lots of workshops which will be appropriate for all the family, so it is worth booking that date in your diaries now.

Fr Michael


Diocesan Synod – 6th December 2008

THERE were two matters at Synod which I thought would be of personal interest to parishioners.

Year of the Child

The first is that 2009 is designated ‘Year of the Child’. The diocese is making a great effort to reach out to the 125,000 or so children within it with lots of special events and activities.   I wonder if Sunday Club, Rockers, Celebrate! and our PPY youth groups will be involved.

Turning to old habits… including going into a church

The second matter was first raised by Bishop Michael in his opening address. He drew our attention to the fact that when people are under stress, as we as a nation are at present, they turn to old habits for security. This seems to include going into churches, perhaps for a service, perhaps just to sit or browse for a while. We are all concerned in some way, and as Christians we must make an effort to be compassionate to those around us, to give a genuine welcome, a friendly ear to listen, even when life isn’t easy for us either.

Mission of welcome

The final speaker was the Revd Andrew Braddock, who holds the rather awesome title of ‘Diocesan Missioner’. In fact he is not at all awesome and his talk was on ‘Developing a Mission of Welcome’. Don’t worry – it is quite simple in reality!

When a stranger walks into one of our churches what can he or she discover about the congregations or about the services? What does ‘Eucharist’ mean? In our parish I suspect St Nicolas’ is a little ahead of St Mary’s at present: the visitor finds a well-organised entrance, a big bright notice board and to one side a quiet and comfortable church.

Now consider St Mary’s entrance – our porch. Two long notice boards, on one side a jumble of parish and community information, on the other perhaps a photo of a child to be baptised, a mention of youth clubs, and lots of lists and rotas for the initiated to read, but not very much to catch a stranger’s interest. Then open the door and step down into the dark space. In the dimness some things of beauty can be picked out, but that’s all, no information about us. I love every stick and stone of this old church – just as it is – but listening to the speaker’s words I knew they made sense.

Many visitors

We have made a beginning: our churchwardens have recently done a major facelift to St Mary’s notice boards, the ‘Real Christmas’ brought many visitors in to meet us, chat and ask questions. We advertised our Christmas services on a bright notice board inside the church, and on our new Bakery Stores Notice Board. We hung a banner in the High Street.
I do not have St Nicolas’ statistics to hand but these are St Mary’s: in 2007 total attendance at services from Carol Service to Christmas Day was 1,238; in 2008 it was 1,641, an increase of 403. Crib services in 2007 attracted 358 people; in 2008 503; and Midnight Mass was up from 168 to 220. These are the services to which visitors come and they came as they have not done for a long while.

Why do they come?

Why did they come? Was it our publicity, the national stress factor, or the hard work put into our schools or open gardens and cream teas earlier in the year? We can never know.

Easter banner

This Easter we have a Passion Play again; there will be a cross outside the United Reformed Church and a bright Easter banner in the High Street. We will attract attention – a lot of it – but what are we going to do for that constant little stream of people coming to find our churches? They don’t know what happens in our services; nor, for example, that the Mothers’ Union has interesting talks for all people, a friendly Money Advisory Service, or practical parenting sessions.

Make friends

These people come out of curiosity for a few moments perhaps. We should be happy to meet them, make friends, and not frighten them away. It’s a tricky balancing act, but if we really believe in Christ’s teaching we must find a way of getting it right.

Lynda Hodges, Diocesan Synod Representative



Handbell ringers at the ‘Real Christmas’

Handbell ringers at the ‘Real Christmas’
in St Mary’s church on 6th December 2008
Photograph by Brian Wood



Finding Judas

IT PROBABLY will not come as a surprise to you that this is not my first Passion Play. In fact this will be my fourth experience of performing the story of Holy Week, and (somewhat disturbingly) my second time as Judas. When I played Peter at Lee Abbey in 1994, I was astonished that people began to call me Peter wherever I went. It took some effort to cope with this, to remind people that I am not the character I play. Perhaps this is because of the nature of Peter, uncomfortably close to my own personality in so many ways. This is the power, not only of the Passion, but of the whole Bible, that as we read these ancient stories we see ourselves in sharp relief, in all our glory and darkness. But who was Judas? How do I find him?

Judas. The name itself hisses snake-like in our consciousness: evil, despicable, the serpent that betrays humanity to their destruction. But Judas is the tempted, not the tempter, who denounces Jesus and destroys himself. His name cuts through history like a dagger, a label that signals treachery, an insult that draws blood. He holds a strange fascination, not least because he leaves us with a question: what made him commit that venomous act, the betrayal of a friend?

‘What will you give me if I betray him to you?’ he asked the chief priests (see Matthew 26). Was it the money? He was the treasurer, in charge of the disciples’ kitty. John tells us he was dishonest about it too. Was it some debt he had to pay? Was Jesus betrayed for an overdraft? Or does the answer lie in his name? Some say ‘Iscariot’ derives from ‘sikarios’, the dagger favoured by the resistance, a silent weapon that strikes in the darkness. Was this a hot-headed revolutionary disillusioned by Jesus’ teaching about love for enemies and the payment of taxes to Caesar? Under the heel of the Roman wolf, Israel cried out to God and, like many who find themselves powerless to control events, they looked back: back to a famous victory when a Jewish hero led a bloody revolt against the pagans who dared to set their unclean feet on God’s holy hill. This hero, who commanded the force that retook the temple, a new Joshua to lead the people, was called Judas. To bear this name meant to remember the pride of God’s people, and perhaps to lead them to freedom. Is this how Judas saw himself? Was it the desire to spark a revolution that set him on his course? Did he believe Jesus would resist and later thank him for causing the essential spark that set all Israel ablaze?

In the Channel 4 reality TV series ‘Shipwrecked’ (2006) two teams competed with one another to win a prize and escape their desert island. One of the contestants, James, joined one team but offered to act as a spy for the other. In the process he was discovered and so became an outcast, but crucially his own side rejected him too. What fascinates me about this individual was his self-image. He truly believed himself to be crucial to the success of whichever team he chose. Not only that but he tried to play the teams off against each other, confident that he was so essential that he would end up on the winning side. Is this the key to Judas’s personality? Was he so taken up with his own inner conversation that he failed to see he was a pawn in a much bigger game?

And if we struggle to understand what motivated Judas, what of the chief priests? Why did they take him up on his offer? Jesus was well-known: ‘Every day I taught in the Temple’ (see John 18). They did not need a friend to point him out, and it would have been simple enough to have him followed to the Mount of Olives to locate his camp. We are used to thinking that without Judas the story of salvation would never have happened, and yet the decision to have Jesus killed was made without him. He was not essential to the plan: it was already in motion when he stepped forward. Can it be that the real tragedy of Judas’s betrayal is the sheer unnecessariness of it?

One thing is sure: to play Judas is a daunting prospect. It is bad enough when the character is the much-loved Peter. What on earth can I expect when I embody Judas, who became a traitor?

Fr Daniel


Prestbury Passion Play 2009

Rehearsals are now underway in earnest. We still need some more players, especially men for non-speaking parts; women and children are also welcome. If you can take part please come to the next rehearsal at St Nicolas’ at 7.30pm on Wednesdays or speak to Brian Wood or Daphne Philpot.

Our rehearsals this month are on Wednesdays 4th and 11th February. Next month, March, rehearsals are on every Wednesday.

Brian Wood, Producer




Fr Andrew’s Licensing on 4th January 2009
St Francis’, Friar Park, Wednesbury

Robed in gold, Bishop Andrew remains seated to deliver his sermon

Fr Andrews Hughes receives his licence from the bishop
Fr Michael and Fr Ron watch as Fr Andrew receives
his licence from the Bishop,
while the camel in the foreground has other things to contemplate!

Under one of the painted arches

The cake …

... and the camel

Photographs by Janet Green and Martin Hughes

A Long Journey

ON AN ICY winter’s evening, evading with greater or lesser success disruptions on the M5, a good number from Cheltenham travelled to the Midlands for the licensing of Fr Andrew Hughes as Assistant Curate of the Parish of S Francis, Friar Park. There we joined with the people of S Francis’ and their Bishop to celebrate a Mass of the Solemnity of the Epiphany, anticipated (as it so often is nowadays) on the Sunday before.

If getting to (and from) Friar Park presented us with challenges, they were as nothing to those faced, with good humour and unfailing determination, by Fr Hughes on his long and tortuous journey to ordination and then to stipendiary ministry. A journey to rival that of the Magi themselves.

So it was fitting that after all that this should be a joyful Mass, a relaxed celebration accompanied by smiles and laughter. The church was full, not just to greet the new deacon, but also to mark the end of an impressive programme of restoration. It is an handsome edifice from the inter-war period (and as such relatively unusual). Its central tower is surmounted by a statue of its patron saint, which at night shines out like a beacon over the streets of the populous parish round about it, symbolising the light of the Gospel that S Francis loved to spread at all times.

Our worship over, we shared the warm hospitality that the parishioners offered, and together made inroads into the mountains of food set before us. Some fine fresh samosas remain particularly in the mind. There was a chance too to wander round and appreciate the altars, statues and other fittings with which the relatively plain, but well-proportioned church is beautifully enriched for Catholic worship and devotion.

It was good to see one of our own finally in place in his new home. We pray for Fr Hughes, for his parish priest Fr Ronald Farrell, and for the people he will serve.

David Smart, All Saints’


Celebrating Christmas

We all have different ways of celebrating Christmas. Last year we were with our daughter Karen and her family in Didcot and she took us on Christmas Eve to see a lovely outdoor exhibition of lighting in nearby Appleford. On our way there, we passed through the village of Sutton Courtney and were amazed to see a huge bonfire in the churchyard and dozens of people singing away, holding flaming torches. We could not stay then but hoped to see it the following year.

And so we did, this Christmas. We drove there in plenty of time and arrived as the blazing log fire was being fed – very welcome on a chilly night. A piano was wheeled out of All Saints’ Church there and the pianist played a selection of carols and Christmas songs, as the others organized the evening. They seemed to be waiting for the torches to arrive, which I presumed meant they would come in a box for those of us gathered there.

Finally a few people arrived at the church gate with their torches already lit. They were followed by a dozen more and then another dozen. Then we saw the procession of torches slowly moving along the High Street in our direction. Finally there must have been a couple of hundred, held by people of all ages, as we toasted ourselves in front of the flaring logs.

The carols sounded beautiful, with our locally composed In the Bleak Midwinter always my favourite. As the torches burned down, so they went to join the logs on the bonfire. There were smiling faces everywhere as complete strangers greeted one another. It could hardly have been a better start to Christmas and it was wonderful that so many people wanted to join in the old tradition of carol singing in the open.

Tudor Williams


Abounding in Steadfast Love

God is gracious and merciful, slow to anger, abounding in
steadfast love, and ready to relent from punishing.
Jonah 4:2 (NRSV)

Jonah was an Old Testament prophet, sent by God to preach to the people of Nineveh in order to persuade them to repent from their sins. At first he disobeyed God’s instructions, and headed off in completely the wrong direction. Then, in a tremendous storm, he was swallowed by a great fish before being miraculously restored to life when the whale spat him out on dry land. When Jonah set off again, he had changed his mind and executed a complete turn-around, both geographically and in his response to God’s will, by turning around and heading for Nineveh, the city to which he had been sent by God in the first place.

The story is full of symbolism and can be interpreted in a number of ways. Jonah voluntarily offered to be thrown into the sea, so that his fellow-mariners could be saved; his three days and nights inside the whale can be seen to foreshadow the sacrificial death and resurrection of Jesus. He is himself saved from death, which can be taken to represent dying to sin and rising to new life through the waters of baptism. Jonah also gives us an acted parable of repentance, illustrating his message by the way in which he behaves.

But the tale of Jonah is concerned less with the actions of Jonah than with the activity of God. Jonah had been sent to announce God’s judgement and he had fully expected to see God’s vengeance visited upon the people of Nineveh for all their wickedness.

When this did not happen, he was cross! But perhaps we should not be too hard on poor Jonah. After all, he was an Old Testament prophet and this account does date from the time when no less a prophet than Isaiah wrote:

The spirit of the Lord God is upon me,
because the Lord has anointed me;
he has sent me to bring good news to the oppressed,
to bind up the broken-hearted,
to proclaim liberty to the captives,
and release to the prisoners;
to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favour,
and … the day of vengeance of our God.
(Isaiah 61:1-2)

Jonah’s hopes for Israel’s salvation included the belief that God’s chosen people would be vindicated and their enemies would get their comeuppance. But instead, God had compassion and did not bring down the destruction he had threatened. What is more, Jonah was forced to admit that he had known all along that this was what would happen.

He was vexed! His expectations had been turned completely upside down. And if you think that is peculiar, it is not the only thing that is a little odd about the book of Jonah:

God said to Jonah: Should I not be concerned about Nineveh, that great city, in which there are more than a hundred and twenty thousand people who do not know their right hand from their left, and also many animals?
(Jonah 4:11)

And there the story ends!

The story of Jonah invites each one of us to complete the ending; to turn present-day beliefs and hopes on their heads by standing up for the eternal values of truth and goodness and justice. So let us begin each day with the prayer that we will be guided to imitate the actions of God himself, because He is gracious and merciful, slow to anger and abounding in steadfast love.

Jennifer Swinbank


Advertisements in the Magazine

We are looking for an Advertising Editor for the Parish Magazine. Your role would be to receive letters, phone calls or emails from prospective advertisers, discuss with them the style, content and size of their proposed advertisement and inform them of the cost. Some advertisers design their own advertisements, but need to be advised of the required dimensions; others will prefer you to design the advertisement for them.

You would be responsible for arranging all the advertisements on a given number of whole pages (currently six), which you would then give to me for inclusion in the printed magazine each month.

You would also liaise with Shirley Brown, who is responsible for invoicing advertisers and sending out renewal reminders.

If you are interested in taking this on, or would like to discuss it, please .

Frances Murton, Editor



Come to St Nicolas’ Hall on
Sat 7th February for the

Starts at 7.30pm prompt
(doors open at 7.00pm)

Teams of maximum 4 players
Over 16s £2 pp Family team £5

Bar available

Questions to suit all ages



Now that Fair Trade goods are much more widely available in supermarkets it has been decided to discontinue the Traidcraft stall at St Nicolas’. I would like to thank everybody for their wonderful support over the last few years and especially Janet White who has so reliably accepted the Traidcraft parcel for me each month, although I won’t miss turning my car round in her tight drive! I will be selling off the existing stock on Sunday 8th February.

Janet Waters


Tuesday Morning Bible Study Group

The Tuesday morning Bible Study Group will continue to meet on Tuesday mornings at 11am, however our venue will be changing. For the time being Rosie Bradbury will host the group. Look in the Sunday notice sheet for weekly updates. The Bible Study group will be discussing the readings for each coming Sunday, details of which can also be found on the weekly notice sheet.

During Lent, the group will depart from our regular Bible Study pattern to explore the Lent Course as one of the many Lent Groups running throughout the North Cheltenham Team. Our group will be advertised alongside the others for signing up, and new faces are always welcome.

Fr David



Tuesday Evening Bible Study Group

The evening bible study group will meet twice this month, looking at the book of Amos, on Tuesdays 3rd and 17th February. The venues will be published in the pewsheet (we have decided the church is too cold!). All are welcome to join us. We start at 7pm and finish at approximately 8 o’clock.

Frances Murton & Karen Winder


Informal Prayer Group

This group is a new venture that has recently started. We meet fortnightly on Tuesday evenings between 8.00 and 9.00pm. There is no particular format to the evening nor do we pretend that we are expert in prayer. We pray for a variety of things within and outside the group. There is also the opportunity to chat and have coffee.
This month we meet on Tuesdays 10th and 24th February. If you would like more information, please get in touch with Father Daniel or Anne Nicholson.


St Mary’s Bakestall

The next bakestall is on Sunday 15th February, when we welcome contributions from the N-Z team. We are looking for new people to join the baking teams. Please have a word with one of us if you think you could help in this way.

Linda Matthews & Margaret Waker


Prestbury URC and St Mary’s CofE


Relax – think – discuss – think – relax

A time to meet, chat, be quiet …

A time to pray, connect, to be …

A time to listen and to be heard …

A time especially designed for those who don’t usually go to Church

Every 4th Sunday 6.00pm at Prestbury United Reformed Church, Deep Street

25 January, 22 February, 22 March, 26 April

Please note earlier start time than previously published




Mothers’ Union

This month’s meeting will take place on Tuesday 24th February at 7.30pm at St Nicolas’ Church. It will be our AGM, followed by a Eucharist led by Father Michael. All existing and any possible new members are welcome to join us for what promises to be an interesting programme of meetings for 2009.

Our thanks go to Barbara Lyle for hosting our Christmas Social. We had a short service followed by readings and extracts from various members, most relating to the Christmas and New Year period. This was followed by a delicious buffet supper, supplied by each member. Thank you to all who contributed in whatever way.

Marion Beagley


Lent Groups 2009

We are considering material for a Team-wide Lent course. At this stage we need to know if people are willing to host a group or to lead a group (not necessarily the same person). If you feel you could offer help, please speak to one of the following:
Liz Greenhow at St Nicolas’
Colin Holman at St Mary’s
Karen Winder or Trish Downes at All Saints’

Please say which day of the week and which time of the day would suit you.



Christingle Service 2008

 A big Thank you!

The Christingle Service at St Mary’s was packed to the rafters again this year, with excited and happy children who were looking forward to Christmas. The Celebrate! music group did us proud with a mixture of modern and traditional hymns and, with the newly arrived Christmas tree twinkling in the corner, the special atmosphere was assured! Christingle orange  (picture by Brian Wood)The highlight, of course, after the distribution of the oranges, was the switching off of the lights and the lighting of the candles as we sang ‘Away in a Manger’. At the end of the service the children proudly left church sporting their oranges to light later at home and over £300 was raised for The Children’s Society! So a big ‘THANK YOU’ to everyone who attended or contributed to this year’s total. Another big THANK YOU goes to the merry band of helpers who gave their time to assemble our oranges – it was a great team effort!

Rachael Buttress



Christian Aid Carol Singing

Thank you to the choirs and friends of both churches who sang Christmas carols for Christian Aid at Oakley Sainsbury’s in December. We raised £268.40 altogether, £140.40 during St Nicolas’ session and £128.00 during St Mary’s.
Many thanks to all who supported us.

Paddy Spurgeon



Thursday Morning Eucharist at St Mary’s

This year St Mary’s have raised £400 at the Thursday morning Eucharist. £300 has been given to the church heating fund and £100 towards the Passion Play expenses. After the service we meet socially for a cup of coffee and biscuits for which we usually pay 50p.

Thank you to everybody who has supported us whether by donation or helping in any way. A great achievement and a much warmer church. It would be nice to see some new people joining us for this lovely half-hour service, after all, only half an hour out of your week. Do join us, you are sure of a warm welcome.

Doreen Morris


Let the Children Live!

Very many thanks to all who bought the Christmas Quiz and raised £120 for Let the Children Live!. Congratulations to those who returned entries and especially Eunice Miles, whose form was the first correct one selected, and who wins a £10 book token.

Janet White & Molly Campbell


The Children’s Society at St Nicolas’

Very many thanks to the box-holders, whose collections during 2008 amounted to £518. Thanks too to Enid Cowley, who helps me to count all those pennies. I’ll be glad to open your boxes again: please give them to me on a Sunday morning, or telephone and I will be glad to collect.

Janet White


Epiphany Supper

Thank you to Lynda and Roger Hodges and all who prepared and served a delicious meal following the Epiphany Eucharist on 6th January. A very pleasant evening!



North Cheltenham Team
Pilgrimage to Walsingham,
Friday 1st  – Monday 4th
May 2009

I have already distributed application forms to all those who have expressed an interest in joining our 2009 pilgrimage to Walsingham. If there is anyone whom I may have overlooked or who may be interested and would to like to know more, please contact me. The overall price this year is £135.65 (children £81.39, under 5 free) and this covers accommodation and all meals from supper on Friday up to and including breakfast on the Monday. I would be grateful if booking forms and a non-returnable deposit of £20 could be returned to me by Tuesday 3rd February.

Colin Holman





Prestbury Parish Magazine - February 2009

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