Thoughts from the Vicarage 84

Good afternoon Friends of The Valley

Once again we are being blessed with sunshine, blue skies and the birds are in full voice communicating, marking out their territories and reflecting the rebirth and re-creation of the Springtime.

Tree planting at The Hermitage

This morning I was fortunate to be out and about in Eastbury as a tree was planted in memory of a long-term resident and friend to many – Mary. The acer was a splendid specimen and Ian was saying how he thought it was at least four years old already.

Serendipitously, a friend of mine, who has recently moved planted a tree from his previous garden and shared a rather special blessing he used as his partner ‘dug it in’. Needless to say I used it this morning and include a snippet here …

May this Acer tree be a tree of life to all the Earth. May its leaves breathe forth the life breath of oxygen. May its branches be living space for those who climb among them and the birds of the air that shall nest there. May those in need of shelter from the sun and heat find in its shade a refreshing refuge. May it give to all who look upon it the gift of life renewing beauty.” Those words struck me so apposite as we signs of Spring increasingly rise to greet us.

Wise words from one of our nonagenarian readers

Tree planting – I’ve done it on several occasions, different contexts and reasons. However, this almost year anniversary of lockdown made it seem all the more poignant. Especially so as an email arrived with some feel good ideas and I quote her …

I have collected rather a lot of ‘feel good’ ideas over 80 years and they work for me. Look out for Sunrise and Sunset. Watch for the Moon and the Stars. Sit beside a flowing river and listen and look. Observe a flower, leaf, or insect, through a hand lens. Take a pair of binoculars on your walk to look at the birds or anything else that interests you. If you can,  sit near the sea and hear its rhythm and feel its immensity.”

Dear reader, thank you for your wise words of experience. How wonderful to think that the acer, in its turn will give others the opportunity to stand and stare.

Isaiah 55:12

Isaiah speaks of trees, joy and peace ‘You will live in joy and peace. The mountains and hills will burst into song, and the trees of the field will clap their hands!’

Today I’ve attached a Get Outside in Lent idea for the first two weeks of Lent. (apologies, I forgot last week) Each week there are six ideas for things to do outside and a celebration suggestion. Pick and choose what you would like to do. Change it and make it your own if you want to, or just do what it says. More than anything, enjoy being outside, take time to connect with nature, with anyone else you might be sharing this with, and with God creator of the universe.

The World Day of Prayer

World Day of Prayer

The World Day of Prayer is on Friday this week March 5th do put it in your diary. The Valley Churches will be joining with St Mary’s Richmond and Hudswell with Downholme and Marske in Yorkshire to offer a World Day of Prayer service at 3pm on March 5th. Not quite international but the content of this short service will be so!

The women of Vanuatu in the South Pacific have prepared this year’s service which is entitled Build a Strong Foundation and meditates on the parable of the wise and foolish builders. The Day of Prayer this year will be different from any we have ever known. All over the world, people will be worshipping on the day as usual but in unusual ways!

Come along and be part of it – Wendy Holmes and her team have been working on it and it would be a joy to welcome you. Zoom details for digital devices are on the Lambourn Valley website and A Church Near You. Phone dial-in details are available from Wendy Holmes on 01488-72001.

Lent Through Art

This is another great project I would like to draw your attention to. The Visual Commentary on Scripture, VCS is an immensely exciting visual project. This year for the period of Lent and Holy Week leading up to Easter, you are invited to mark the season by exploring selected daily commentaries (with accompanying audio) on works of art in dialogue with Bible passages. A great resource that aims to help you experience the season in new and meaningful ways.

Looking ahead…

It is worth saying that we are keeping a very close eye on how things are going. On Friday myself, churchwardens and representatives met to consider the situation in relation to our churches.

• The decision was made to remain as we are for the moment;
• While rates are encouraging there is still considerable infection about and we do not want to disrespect the Government’s “stay at home message” having come so far in this difficult period;
• Palm Sunday will be a local zoom Service similar to our Ash Wednesday;
• Maundy Thursday will be virtual, with foot washing and stripping an altar;
• Good Friday will also be observed with private prayer possible as usual;
• An Easter Day celebration will be held in St Michael & All Angels Lambourn.

The single Easter Day service at Lambourn will be a benefice service, with the doors open and plenty of social distancing and I’m confident that we can safely accommodate everybody who would wish to come. This is welcome news but I do have to stress that these plans will be subject to:

• The government advice and dates remaining unchanged;
• The infection rates in both West Berkshire and the valley remaining low.

Wednesday @ 7…

This is an opportunity to come and see and explore more about the creed and you are welcome. The zoom link is the usual one. The Diocese is sending out a daily email with a reflection on the Apostles’ Creed – to sign up for it you need to email

And an unashamed plug for our website…

Lost the zoom code, missed an episode of Thoughts From The Vicarage, want to know more about what’s happening? Then don’t forget our website:

Be contemplative and gentle with one another

Here is the text of an email from Bishop Steven which I thought was well worth passing on:

The vaccination programme is going well. The Prime Minister gave the country a road map out of lockdown on Monday with five different steps to removing restrictions. There is real hope on the horizon but still some way to go when so many are tired and exhausted. There are fresh challenges ahead for our schools, chaplaincies and parishes but it’s good we can now look forward to being able to meet together physically, God willing. The decisions for parishes on the timetable will need to be taken locally in the coming weeks. We are expecting some further national guidance from the Church of England in the coming days. As a Diocese, we will issue some more substantial advice to guide those decisions locally next week.

A new set of complex decisions can feel daunting – even if things are moving in the right direction. Once again this is a time to be contemplative and gentle with one another: to slow down and pray and listen to one another and to God before coming to a common mind.

Like many of us, I’ve been saying Morning Prayer online in recent months with a group of colleagues from Church House. I found a big lump in my throat as we said Psalm 42 together yesterday: Now when I think on these things, I pour out my soul: how I went with the multitude and led the procession to the house of God, With the voice of praise and thanksgiving, among those who kept holy day. Why are you so full of heaviness, O my soul, and why are you so disquieted within me? O put your trust in God; for I will yet give him thanks, who is the help of my countenance, and my God. Common Worship: Daily Prayer

I was remembering – and longing for – the joy of worshipping with God’s people gathered together but conscious with the psalmist of the journey we still have to make and the demands that will make on those who are already worn down.

Thanks be to God for all that clergy and heads and wardens and musicians are giving in church and the wider community. Just a little further now. Let’s keep going and encourage one another in this next part of this journey.

In Christ,

Bishop Steven.

And finally

Please keep your tips and comments coming in, people leave to hear how everyone is getting on. And if you need anything, then do please let us know – we are very much here to help. Meanwhile please continue to pray for our health care workers and give thanks for the vaccine programme.

May God, bless, guide and protect you