Thoughts from the Vicarage 108

Greetings dear friends of the Valley

Thank you to all who have contributed so wonderfully to the Valley Harvest Celebrations this year – for all the gifts shared in response to God’s bounty in creation. The contributions of donors and volunteers of the West Berks foodbank will be celebrated throughout the Valley – watch this space!

Following the murder of Sir David Amess amongst the tributes and acres of newsprint about him, his life and faith I was most struck by the article so beautifully written by ⁦Stephen Cottrell, Archbishop of York. The last two paragraphs are the most powerful and are what I suspect Sir David would want us to take to heart as Stephen writes of ‘persistent kindness’. It really is worth reading. It’s attached today along with Pews News.

  • The Empty Chair in St Michael’s – If you’d like to remember a loved one do call in and add their name, sit in the quiet, say a prayer and maybe light a candle when you get home.
  • The Gospel for this Sunday is a very beautiful one. Do read through it beforehand if you get chance. Mark 10.46 to the end.
  • St Michael’s coffee and chat welcomes all who would like a cuppa and a chat, a chance to get out and join friendly faces – every Monday 2-4pm at the British Legion.
  • Lambourn Lambs are gathering on Monday mornings in St Michael’s from 9.45 – 11.45 – covid aware with an opportunity to meet other babies, toddlers and a few adults as well!
  • Keith (aka Mr Vicarage) is the Poppy Appeals Organiser for the Valley and is looking for volunteers to help outside the Co-op or at the Lych Gate in Lambourn or Membury service station. Do ask for more information or ring Keith 077 099 222 11
  • Please support St Michael Church – Lambourn on easyfundraising, you can raise FREE donations when you shop online with over 6,000 retailers. It’s simple and only takes 2 minutes to sign up! Plus, once you have raised your first £5, easyfundraising will match it! Sign up now:

Looking ahead – dates for your diary

Remember – the clocks go back on Sunday 31st October – an extra hour in bed!

All Souls is being kept at 3pm on Saturday 30th October in St Michael’s. Invitation letters have been sent out to those families which have had funerals with the Benefice in the last year but everyone is welcome to come to this quiet service and light a candle.

If you would like the name of a loved one remembered in the service, please email myself or write it on the list in St Michael’s.

Sunday 31st is All Saints – the 10.30 service will be at All Saints East Garston when we are welcoming our visiting preacher Janet Proudman, the reader at Christchurch Cathedral for this very special Patronal Sunday service.

Pauline Illott’s funeral will take place at 2.30pm on November 2nd

November 14th is Remembrance Sunday – the service in Lambourn at 10.45 will take place outside as will a Remembrance gathering in Eastbury 10.30 – all preceded by a service at 9am in East Garston. The East Garston act of Remembrance will take place on Saturday 13th 10.45 at the War Memorial.

With rising numbers of infection within the Valley please do take care to protect yourself and one another – this is why we are continuing to socially distance in our churches, having a good air flow and encouraging the use of sanitiser and the wearing of masks.

Finally, I am now back at my desk in Parish and out and about – thank you to all who have been taking the helm as I convalesced!

With prayerful best wishes


My friend David’s faith-filled life showed the true meaning of kindness

Sir David Amess’s shining example proves the power and importance of recognising our common humanity

  • Stephen Cottrell
    Archbishop of York

It was said of Sir David Amess that though he had opponents, he didn’t have enemies. As we come to terms with the horror of his murder on Friday, this is a distinction worth pondering.

I think of David Amess as a friend. Leigh-on-Sea is my home town and, for ten glorious years as Bishop of Chelmsford, part of the diocese I served. We often met: in parliament, but usually in his constituency, Southend West.

He was, as we have heard over the weekend, a dedicated, zestful, persevering constituency MP. He loved Southend, as I do. He rooted for it. He exemplified that vital, but overlooked, root of our democracy that Members of Parliament may get elected on a party ticket, but, once elected, serve everyone.

Tragically, that availability to those he served has led to his death and that this happened in a Church makes it all the more horrific. However, although it is right and inevitable that we review the security around MPs, David himself would not, I’m sure, want that essential connection between those who are elected and those they serve to be broken. In our democracy, place matters. MPs serve our nation by serving a locality and therefore particular people. It is the same in the Church. We must not lose this. When I was with him, it was obvious and evident that he loved his constituency, knew the people, and served their needs regardless of political affiliation. His was a real vocation.

He and I did not see eye to eye on some political issues. But this didn’t matter. Or rather, the fact that it doesn’t matter matters hugely for the flourishing of our democracy. Disagreement wasn’t a cause of enmity or division. Disagreement didn’t mean separation. Yet it is precisely this that we see around us in so much of the trench warfare of current public and political discourse, the vitriolic and ever amplifying echo-chambers of social media now invading other areas of life. How do we counter this?

David Amess was a kind man. The word kind is related to the word kin. When we are kind to someone, it doesn’t mean we necessarily agree with them, or even like them, but that we recognise a kinship, a common humanity and treat them accordingly; or as we sometimes say, “treat them in kind”.

David’s robust kindness came from his Christian faith. He was a devout Christian, a Roman Catholic. But the idea that we human beings belong to one another and have a responsibility to each other is not self-evident. Observation of our behaviour and attitudes shows us the opposite. Our worst desires can be seen everywhere, leading us to separation, fuelled by selfishness, and bearing fruit in hatefulness and the possession of each other.

The picture of humanity that God gives us in Jesus Christ offers something else. In this regard, perhaps the most radical words Jesus ever spoke are the ones most of us know and many of us say every day: “Our Father.” In saying these words we don’t just acknowledge we belong to God, we acknowledge our belonging to each other as kith and kin.

Such a way of inhabiting life enables us to be kind to each other, especially when we disagree. It can even lead us to love our enemies.

Sometimes the newspapers call people like me naive or idealistic. And I dread to think what is said on social media. On the whole, I’ve stopped looking at it. It is too unkind. But when it comes to naiveté and idealism, I plead guilty. I want the world to be a kinder place and I find the template for kindness in the life and teaching of Jesus.

David Amess, the friend with whom I sometimes disagreed, had the same values and the same vision. It shaped his life and it is what made him such a loved and effective constituency MP and an exemplar of what our democracy can be.

He was always very kind to me. He supported the Church. He cared. He liked to build coalitions of goodwill so that people could work together. Kindness and kinship, it turns out, gets things done.

My heart goes out to his wife and family and the constituents of Southend West. I am praying for them. I will endeavour to remember David in what can feel at times an increasingly more vulgar, less tolerant, nasty and vituperative world by trying to be kind, by loving my neighbour, by cultivating opponents with persistent kindness and by refusing to respond when people ask me to take sides on anything other than the common good of all God’s people.

David Amess didn’t wear his faith on his sleeve. He wore it in his heart. That’s the best place for it. It means it runs through your very being.

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