Tuesday in Holy Week

The Rt. Revd. Richard Chartres

Tuesday in Holy Week
Readings: 1 Corinthians 1.18-31; John 20.19-23
ONE of the most haunting lines of twentieth-century poetry comes from
a chorus in T.S. Eliot’s play The Rock:
“Where is the wisdom we have lost in knowledge?
Where is the knowledge we have lost in information?”
In his letter to the Christians of Corinth, Paul explores the wisdom of
God hidden in “the foolishness of the Cross”. It is a wisdom disclosed by
the Holy Spirit, a wisdom that does not seem plausible to the kind of
thinking and calculating mind that is habitual with us.
The business of the Christian life is to “live and grow” in the Holy Spirit.
After centuries in which the Church in the West has downplayed the
work and centrality of the Holy Spirit, there is in our own time a fresh
appreciation of the role of the Spirit in bringing the Kingdom of God to
perfection.
Unfortunately, the experience of the Spirit has sometimes been
associated with bizarre and unusual gifts. Paul, in his letter to the
Corinthians, warns us about confusing spiritual maturity with the
possession of extraordinary gifts like “speaking with tongues”. The gifts
of the Spirit for which we pray are the basis of living and everyday
Christian life and being enabled to see and hear the wisdom of God.
I was given a salutary lesson in the power and significance of the Spirit
in an unexpected place. I was visiting a centre for the rehabilitation of
drug addicts –- usually men who had already served prison terms.
As I approached the entrance with the Warden, I could see through the
glass doors a giant of a man. He must have been six foot six. The
Warden said, “Bish, that man has had more convictions than you’ve got.”
The little jest made me nervous, but when I got into the hall the man in
question politely asked me to sit down and talk with him.
There began one of those conversations where no one was wearing a
mask. Very often, we are so defended that our conversations are from subject to object.

On this occasion, for whatever reason, we were able to
speak heart to heart, subject to subject.
Much of the evil and distress in the world comes from treating other
people as objects: overlooking them; cutting them down to size.
Communication in the Holy Spirit is different, as we can see from the
story of the first Pentecost. The apostles were gathered in Jerusalem for
the festival with a host of pilgrims from many different countries,
speaking a variety of languages, but they all found that they could
understand what the spirit-filled friends of Jesus were saying.
Just as you do not have to understand German to appreciate Mozart —
and you do not have to have been in prison to empathise with those who
have – so, if we communicate in the Holy Spirit, it is possible to
overcome natural barriers.
We can all too easily make one another ill by our style of
communication, but on the contrary I was beginning to find the
conversation of my new acquaintance refreshing.
If I told you some of the things he told me about the circumstances of his
upbringing, you would not be at all surprised that he had acquired a drug
habit. Many of us go through life complaining about our problems, and
claiming that they are the fault of other people — usually authority
figures. This man, however, was able to say that he had problems and
that they were his responsibility.
The Spirit is a Spirit of Truth which enables us to look within to the dark
continent inside all of us. In the power and company of the Spirit of
Jesus Christ we are enabled to look at the shadows we all try to conceal
and, by looking through them, drain them of power to do us injury. The
Spirit can help us to drain the swamp of craving and fantasy, which we
can so easily project on to others.
I wonder if you have ever experienced a surge of dislike for someone at
first meeting and about whom you knew very little. It is a valuable clue to
what is going on inside us, because one of the laws of the spiritual life is
that we most dislike in others what we are trying to cover up in
ourselves.

The Spirit of Communication; the Spirit of Truth; and then the Spirit of
Power and Healing. My friend had been in the centre for four months. It
was a place of prayer and — while they had not been soft with him — he
had felt listened to, and had been given greater self-respect. He was
determined to stay off drugs, although returning to the place where he
had acquired the habit was going to make that hard. Then he said
something which seemed to me to be one way of summing up the whole
gospel: “If you wanna stay clean, you gotta stay in touch.”
The Spirit of Christ leads us into all the truth, equips us as healers and
ambassadors. Bizarre and showy spiritual gifts can easily puff us up.
Living and growing in the Holy Spirit is the essence of the Christian life.

ALL EVENTS SUSPENDED

Until further notice church buildings and public buildings are closed.

There are no public events to publicise until further notice.

“Virtual” resources and meetings will be arranged as frequently as possible.

For Holy Week and Easter ideas please check the “categories” list

ALL EVENTS SUSPENDED

Until further notice church buildings and public buildings are closed.

There are no public events to publicise until further notice.

“Virtual” resources and meetings will be arranged as frequently as possible.

For Holy Week and Easter ideas please check the “categories” list

Annual Report 2018

When planning activities for the year, the incumbent and PCC have considered the Commission’s guidance on public benefit and the specific guidance on charities for the advancement of religion.
We strive to enable parishioners to explore and develop their spiritual awareness and to live out their faith, by means of prayer and worship, Bible study and ethical discussion, and provision of pastoral care to all sections of the community.
The work of all three churches is summarised on the parish website, http://www.wiltonparish.co.uk..

The PCC aims to provide public worship appropriate to the varied needs of the inhabitants of the Ecclesiastical Parish.
Where practical this includes ecumenical cooperation with the local Baptist congregation and members of other Christian denominations living in Wilton.

The clergy seek to respond to all requests for the “Occasional offices” of the Church – Baptisms, Marriages and Funerals from those living in the Ecclesiastical parish, or with a legitimate connection with any of our churches and to provide appropriate preparation and pastoral care.

We seek to foster a sense of community within the town of Wilton through the provision of social activities and active involvement in other local organisations.

To facilitate this work, we strive to maintain the fabric of our church buildings and meeting room in good order – taking due note of the recommendations included in our Quinquennial Inspections.

In December 2009 it was agreed that the PCC would discontinue its policy of making annual grants to specific charities and would instead encourage individual Church-members to support such charities as far as they are able. In addition, the PCC nominates a monthly/quarterly Charity – for which donations are invited at Coffee after the principal Eucharist each Sunday – with a balance of local, national and international charities. In addition Wilton’s congregations continue to sponsor the education of Richnaider Paul, in Haiti – through the Charity “SOS Children’s Villages” and, through the Chalke Deanery, agricultural and social projects in the Diocese of Cueibet, South Sudan.

The PCC makes provision for regular public worship in all three churches, as well as a Trust-owned Chapel in Wilton. The former Parish Church, “Old St. Mary’s”, is under the care of the Churches Conservation Trust and is used only occasionally for worship.

At the Parish Church, Morning Prayer was said Monday – Saturday and on Sundays either one or two celebrations of the Eucharist have been held.

At St. Peter’s Church, Fugglestone, regular services were suspended from the end of September 2013 due to lack of heating and lighting. Thursday morning Communion services were introduced in 2016 and these were continued in 2018, along with occasional Evening services. These attracted a small but committed congregation, including some of the new residents of the “Wilton Hill” development.

At St Catherine’s Church, Netherhampton weekly morning services were held – alternating between Holy Communion and Matins. Festival services were especially well attended in 2018.

Parish Clergy continued to be assisted by two Lay Worship Leaders, Christine Lawson and Tim Purchase, and by the retired clergy – notably Canon Chris Savage and Canon Michael Goater. The Revd. Janet Mugridge continued to play a significant role at St. John’s Priory and to assist at the Parish Church.

At Petertide, The Revd. Caroline Titley was ordained Priest at Salisbury Cathedral and celebrated her “First Mass” at the Parish Church on 8th July.

In our aim of drawing parishioners, and others, to God through worship
we have again benefitted enormously from the commitment of our Parish Choir, Organists, Ringers, Verger and Altar servers, Eucharistic Assistants, Lectors and Intercessors and have been very well supported by our Churchwardens, Sacristans, Flower Arrangers and team of sidesmen and women – all of whom show admirable dedication. In September, Andrew Hanley was appointed as “Director of Youth Music” and a Junior Choir formed. The children led their first service in October and sang at further Eucharists in November and December and to a very well-attended “Crib Service” on Christmas Eve.
In December, St. Catherine’s Church’s second organist David Brown retired and was replaced by Ben Maton, who had recently also taken over the Treasurer’s role for St. Catherine’s.

After seven years in post, Mrs Ann Hindley stepped down as Churchwarden. Peter Gulliver succeeded her as Senior Warden and was joined by Andy Tyrer as second Churchwarden.

The Parish’s Safeguarding Representative moved to a new post in the Diocese of Llandaff. The Revd. Dr. Stella Wood was appointed as the new PSR – with the added proviso that any concerns relating to members of the clergy should be referred directly to the Diocesan Safeguarding Representative.
The Parish Safeguarding Policy was adapted to reflect changes in terminology in national policies, pending a fuller revision before the next Annual meeting.

The Tuesday morning “Coffee Corner”, held in the Community Centre, lost a number of children – who moved on to school or nursery – and in the summer it was decided that a fresh approach was needed. Initial focus on the older members resulted in a new Friday afternoon group “Young at Heart” – which attracted a membership of some 20+ people and is well supported by a strong team of volunteers, providing cake and refreshments and engaging with the attendees.

The Ecumenical “Open the Book” team continued to meet in the Primary School, on alternate Mondays, to present dramatised Bible Stories and engaging the pupils and staff in various ways.

Two Mothers’ Union Groups and the men’s group, “Grapevine”, continued to meet regularly. Three new groups were introduced in the Autumn: an afternoon Bible Study Group, an evening Discussion group and Christian Mindfulness group.

In July, the Rector shared in the leadership of the “Pulse Camp” weekend at the Hampshire Christian Trust, Lockerly – attended by young people aged 11 – 17 from various Christian denominations including three young people from Wilton.

In April, the Parish Church hosted the Salisbury Branch of the Prayer Book Society, for their AGM and Evensong. A second Branch Evensong was held at Michaelmas and an Advent Carol Service at St Catherine’s in December.

A training course for Lay Pastoral assistants was run, from February to July, co-led by clergy and an experienced LPA, Tim Purchase. Four new LPAs from this parish were commissioned on St Edith’s Day, along with a fifth from the Chalke Valley.
The rejuvenated “Pastoral Ministry Team” subsequently adopted a pattern of monthly meetings to establish priorities – reviewing patterns of home-visiting and “Home Communions” and monthly Communion Services were established in two residential complexes: Olivier Place and Pembroke Court.

Services for Holy Week and Easter followed the comprehensive pattern established in 2015, following a major review. These were well attended, as was the Ecumenical “walk of witness” on Good Friday.

In early September all three of our Churches welcomed participants in the Wiltshire Historic Churches Ride and Stride, while we deployed one cyclist to visit Churches in the Wylye Valley.
Pastoral Offices

In 2018, parish clergy officiated at 17 baptisms, 4 weddings and 19 funerals.
(In 2017 – 19 baptisms, 12 weddings and 17 funerals.)

Community

Members of all three churches are involved in other community groups and organisations – including Wilton Community Centre, Public Library, Burnbake Trust, Alabaré, Riding for the Disabled and also assist with events such as the Christmas Day lunch for the elderly. A number of church-members are Trustees for almshouses at St John’s Priory and St Giles’ Hospital and for three separate Educational Trusts.

As Trustees of the Wilton Middle School Educational Trust, the Rector and Churchwardens contributed further significant grants to local schools, the Youth Centre in Wilton, Youth Action Wiltshire (for work with Young Carers) and provided assistance to a Nursing Student and an Apprentice Carpenter. The Rector continued to represent Wilton at Area Board “Youth Network” meetings.

The Revd Caroline Titley serves on the Board of the Wilton Community Land Trust and as a Trustee on the Church of England Pensions Board.

In January the Primary School was placed in “Special Measures” and in August became an Academy, as part of the Salisbury Diocesan Trust. A considerable amount of support has been given by Foundation Governors – Ivan Seviour (Chair of Governors), Revd. Caroline Titley and Ben Kinsey. After ten years as Governor, the Rector stepped down from this role, but maintains an active pastoral role among staff, pupils and parents. A Baptism service was held at the school for one of the pupils, attended by staff and pupils from Years 1 and 2.
In September, a favourable, external review of “Christian Ethos” drew attention to the quality of support provided by Parish clergy.

Educational visits to, and services in, both the Parish Church and St Catherine’s Church have been arranged, involving local Primary schools and nursery schools.

A steady flow of tourists and pilgrims visited the Parish Church throughout much of the year, with a number of U3A groups arranging guided tours, aided by our dedicated group of “church guides”.

Wilton’s “Mayor’s Sunday” service was held on St Edith’s Day, in the afternoon, and attended by members of the uniformed Youth Organisations. During the service, the school’s new Headteacher, Richard Boase, was formally welcomed and commissioned.
Remembrance services took on a particular poignancy in 2018 – marking the centenary of the Armistice – and were well attended in both St. Catherine’s and the Parish Church. A banner was created for the Parish Church, by children from the Primary school, Cubs and brownies, commemorating 290 soldiers from WW1, and was hung from the gallery during the season of Remembrance.

Wilton’s annual “lighting of the Christmas Tree and Children’s Nativity” provided further opportunities for ecumenical cooperation and partnership with other Town Team organisations.

The Rector officiated at the annual Carol Service for the Pembroke Centre (Riding for the Disabled).

Year 5 Pupils from the Primary School attended a special 50th Anniversary Christingle Service at Salisbury Cathedral and, on the final day of term, a “whole-school” Christingle Service was held in the parish Church.

The Christmas Fayre was again held in the Community Centre, with a similar format to previous years.

The new Parish “Newsletter” was delivered to all dwellings in the parish in March, June, September and December. Costs of production were met from advertising charges, involving a number of local businesses.

Buildings

St. Mary and St. Nicholas’ Church:
The Town Council continued to arrange the grass cutting, and other aspects of the churchyard continued to be maintained to a high standard, largely due to the efforts of Nick Barsby, Neill O’Connor and David Fraser.
Further works were undertaken to upgrade the electrical installations and, in September, the lighting system was adapted to house LED bulbs throughout, resulting in vastly improved light levels and presentation of the building and reducing energy consumption and running costs.
St. Catherine’s Church
In March, the church suffered a break-in, resulting in a broken window in the South Aisle and damage to the Vestry Door Frame. Cathedral Glass was instructed to repair the window and Mouldings Builders Ltd was asked to tender for repair of the woodwork. It was also proposed that the porch should be repaired and estimates sought.

St. Peter’s Church
In February, the church suffered a break-in through a vestry window – resulting in significant damage to the glazing and also to the casing of a donations box in the church. Cathedral Glass was instructed to repair the window.

An “Unholy” Week?

Palm Sunday 20

Here we are then at the beginning of Holy Week – and yet, it doesn’t really feel like it!

For me, this is normally the busiest time of year:
with a range of services and acts of worship to be prepared and delivered;
special services to be “re-learned” and then rehearsed with the team of servers;
practicalities to check – such as the building of the Easter bonfire or the acquiring of super-sized chocolate eggs for our two main congregations;
liaising with our friends at the Baptist Church ahead of Good Friday’s walk of witness.

So it’s very odd this year to find myself still busy – but doing none of those “normal” things,

Instead, together with Caroline, our Curate, the main task, just now, has been in trying to keep some form of contact with the members of our congregations and also to offer some kind of Easter experience for the communities around us.

And so the last 2 weeks have involved, not only busy phone lines, but something of a crash course in social media! Our Facebook page has been hastily reordered – the world of You Tube has been explored and our Parish website linked to more resources, such as meditations and prayers for use at home.

And then, of course, there’s been the corresponding task of writing, selecting, recording and editing material to post at those various “outlets”.

That’s been an interesting experience – if at times frustrating and equally at times very moving in the responses that I’ve received.

But none of it quite takes away the sense of “absence” – the sense that this is not how Holy Week is meant to be.

And that brings with it a sense of powerlessness – even if that is coupled with a conviction that staying at home IS the right thing to do just now.

What I think a number of us are experiencing is a kind of “slow motion” Easter: we’ve already sensed the loss and uncertainty that Jesus’ friends experienced as he was lost to them.

There was a palpable sense of shock – when churches were closed, and our normal way of worshipping together taken from us.

Even being told to stay at home – in fairly stark terms – was quite hard for those of us more used to be out and with other people. That loss of freedom is difficult.

And it’s proved something of a shock for families used to going their own separate ways during the day – for work or school or college: suddenly being together all day and every day, with no other company to dilute the mix, demands new rules of engagement if the battle for personal space is not to be lost as well.

Harder still is the enforced separation of those unable to visit loved ones who are sick or dying – and the double sense of isolation that brings.
We share perhaps the disciples’ sense of disorientation as familiar patterns and routines are lost. Like them we find ourselves in a situation where everything we thought we knew – everything we were expecting – has been thrown out. We don’t know what is going to happen next; we don’t know when we’ll get back to “normal”, or even what “normal” is going to look like when we get there.

And there’s a certain amount of confusion around too.
I have to admit that I sometimes struggle to remember what day it is, now they all seem remarkably similar!
And for those now working from home for the first time, there’s the fresh challenge of demarcating work time and family or leisure time: how do we know when to “clock on” and “clock off”? Can I do a couple of extra hours work today, while it’s quiet, then a bit less tomorrow?
And will I remember?!

Am I, at this moment, professional, partner, parent or all three at once?

How can I anchor myself in these strange waters that I’m now forced to navigate?
Shock, disorientation, confusion – in many ways, our loss of church worship and the loss now of our usual Holy Week observance, both sound rather like bereavement.
Those three emotions, that we usually associate with grief, do seem to be present now, as we live through this gradual and sometimes painful process of adjusting to a different way of living.

We shouldn’t be surprised then if sometimes we find it hard going – if our emotions sometimes lurch in response to certain triggers: living where we do, alongside the Parish Church, I can’t help noticing the lack of bells on a Monday evening; or of the sound of organists practising on Tuesdays and Wednesday; or of the strains of the choir on Thursday evenings.
For now the church stands silent – a physical reminder of the “absence” we feel – a reminder, we might say, of the silence of the tomb.

This, then, is our Holy Saturday experience: like the disciples we know what we have lost, but we can’t yet see the joy that lies beyond. Like them we are forced to hide away, in the relative safety of our homes. Like the first Christians, we are forbidden to gather in public.
And yet we do know that this will not last for ever –
we don’t yet know when it will end, but do know it will.

A very particular perspective on this was offered, this week, by Terry Waite – who, in the 1980s, was envoy for the then Archbishop of Canterbury, Robert Runcie.
In 1987, Waite was sent to Beirut, to try and negotiate for the release of two American hostages. In the event he was himself taken hostage, and kept in cramped conditions for over four years.

It’s with a particular wisdom, then, that he gave advice to any of us struggling with our current isolation.

First of all, he said, we need a change of mindset: we are not “stuck” at home, we are “safe” at home”.

There is a real difference.

In order to cultivate that positive frame of mind he suggests 4 practical steps:
1 – keep your own dignity – don’t sit around all day in your pyjamas!
2 – Form a structure to your day – that might mean set times each day for prayer, for exercise, for meals
3 – Be grateful for what you have – not least for the shelter that our homes provide, and something not everyone does have.
4 Read and do something creative – don’t just sit and fret about things, feed your mind.

So, can we use this enforced stillness to notice the good things that are there for us?
Without the usual volume of traffic we hear the birdsong more clearly.
Without our daily encounter with the usual people, our fleeting conversations – from a distance, on the phone or by other means – somehow mean more to us.

Can we use this time to really appreciate the things we are missing – even simple things, like pasta or Reeve’s cakes!
Can we use this time to really appreciate the people we depend on – those in our pharmacies and medical staff, for example.

And what about the things we can now do – that we’re normally far to busy for – or that we can now do differently, in more creative ways?

One of the many posts that caught my eye on Facebook read “In the rush to return to normal, it’s worth asking which parts of normal are really worth rushing back to.”

We can learn from this experience – we can grow through this period of restriction and come out the other side renewed and refreshed.

We can yet discover again what is truly precious to us; what is vital to our communities, our society, our planet;
what is fundamental to our faith and our church.
Of course, I am NOT trying to suggest that this pandemic is some kind of blessing in disguise: for those who have lost loved ones, Covid 19 represents a devastating loss that can never be undone. It would be crass to suggest otherwise.

And yet, even then, our faith refuses to see a dead end.

The experience of Good Friday was agonizing for Jesus himself AND for those who loved him – forced to stand by helplessly, unable to do anything to ease his suffering.

We know now that through his suffering the world was changed for good – God’s love for us revealed,
the way to eternal life opened to us.

From this time – with all its frustrations, hardship and grief – still good things can come and will come, if we enable them to.

May God give us grace to trust in him who suffered, died and rose again for us – knowing that we will rejoice again, in his presence and in each other’s company. Amen.