Examination Season

Dear Friends,

At this time of year my heart always goes out to all those who are doing exams. I used to be a teacher (and teachers also suffer during, and after, exams) and saw close up how demanding and stressful examinations could be. The consolation that they would be over in due course and that a lovely, long, hot summer vacation loomed never seemed enough at the time. Nevertheless, we all know that they have to be done and even, some might just about admit, they could be useful for learning and the future. And, if we are talking about the examinations for those studying to become doctors or engineers, most of us would say that those examinations are not merely good but essential.

Examination season is a metaphor for life. Often, we wonder why we are going through trials and tribulations. We cannot see the point. And even when we can see the point, we would rather it wasn’t happening. No-one likes suffering and it is one of our duties as human beings to minimise sufferings. Many sufferings cannot be explained, let alone justified, and we weep in frustration when we see others suffer. And we may shout at God (or those nearest to us) and wonder what is going on.

Yet it is the Christian belief that this time of trial can be a preparation to make us ready for the life to come after death. The model is Jesus, who suffered willingly for others so that there can be new life. Just as the exam student finds it difficult to focus on the holidays in the midst of exams, so we often find it difficult to think about the life to come in the midst of suffering. Nevertheless, we can have hope because Jesus himself rose from the dead and shows that there is new life. The summer holidays will come in the end and by the time you read this the exams may well be over. The summer, with long days, warmth, BBQs, holidays and no more school: I cannot think of a better picture for the life to come in God.

The key to this new life is Jesus himself who offers the gift of new life. When I took up that offer myself, the trials and difficulties did not go away. But they were put in perspective and a new hope was born: the summer holidays are coming!

John Chitham, Rector

Settling in

Although we have only been here a short time it already seems like this is “home”. The common question is “how are you settling in?” and I have to say, as far as we are concerned, wonderfully. It is such a lovely place to be with such friendly people. It always helps to arrive in spring to wonderful weather (although, of course, we need more rain…), to see the blossom everywhere, hare in the fields, bluebells appearing in the woods and the Martins returning. One particular surprise is the sheer quantity of deer. I managed to count a herd of 150 Fallow deer on one occasion, as well as regular Muntjac.

Meanwhile people have been so welcoming. There is patience over procedures I take time to learn and many names to remember. There is an overwhelming kindliness and generosity in so many areas that it is difficult pick one out. At the same time there is a spiritual appetite which is stimulating and challenging. All in all, it is like a refreshment to the soul, and Basma and I are grateful to everyone and to God.

Of course, it is the “day job” that counts and I have already seen the consolation that a church funeral can bring in the countryside and the joy in preparing for a church wedding. However, the highlight in church life so far has been Easter. Maundy Thursday, Good Friday and Easter Sunday were all special in different ways. The Maundy Thursday service in Sacombe was enchanting with a large congregation, a full choir and going out in silence into the dusk just as Jesus and the disciples did long ago in Jerusalem as they went to the Garden of Gethsemane. Similarly, the two services for Good Friday were very moving. The service at Little Munden, with the dramatic rendition of the crucifixion, brought home to me yet again the horror and wonder of the crucifixion, of how Jesus was prepared to die for me personally. And then on Easter Sunday St. Mary’s Standon was packed as we sang about and read about the wonders of the resurrection. The Easter story is truly amazing and something that can bring hope to us all.

As we go on and get more established, I hope that I can meet more and more of you. The Vicarage door is always open. I hope that we can start courses soon for anyone interested in exploring the Christian faith. Please feel free to ask if you are interested. In the meantime, if you see me at the school gate or walking the dog, please feel free to say hello.

John Chitham, Rector

An Introduction

Dear Friends,

it is a great delight to be able to write to you to introduce ourselves. We are looking forward greatly to being with you.

A little about ourselves. I became a Christian as a teenager and have found that being with Jesus has been the sure guide for the whole of my life. After university I worked as a teacher in York and then went to Jordan as a teacher for 5 years as part of the Church Mission Society. There I met and married Basma who is a Jordanian Christian.

Basma was brought up as a Christian from a Christian family. Although Greek Orthodox by birth she has been influenced by a number of different churches and came afresh to Jesus in her twenties. She worked as a Child Psychologist and now as an interpreter.

I was called to ordained ministry and we spent time in Syria and Lebanon, where I was vicar of Beirut. After coming to England from the Middle East we spent 18 years in churches in Worthing, where I was vicar, and for the last two and a half years in Blackburn where I have been the Chaplain to the Diocesan Bishop. We have one son, Jack, who is now 28 and who often works overseas.

But what makes us tick? For Basma it is all about relationships. She comes from a “tribe” in Jordan with many offshoots and this is how she sees the church as a big family with its strengths and weaknesses. She loves entertaining and being with people and is excited to be living n a vicarage in a village exactly like Miss Marple in St Mary Mead. For myself, I have various hobbies: watching rugby, motor-cycling, birding and scuba-diving being the chief. We both love the Middle East, have a deep interest in the politics and spiritual life there. And, of course, we both love Jesus and desire, as much as possible, to be like him to those around us.

What are the plans and aspirations for the Benefice? I can honestly say that there is no pre-conceived or fixed plan. We need to get to know people first, to see what gifts there are, and to see where God is leading us all. Nonetheless, some things remain constant: the need to be like Jesus, to worship him, love him and follow him in what he says, to build a community of faith that loves one another and is attractive to those outside the faith, and to be witness to all he has done. In short, it is to build the Kingdom of God in Standon, the Mundens and Sacombe, based on the foundation of his birth, death and resurrection. We look forward to sharing this great adventure with you!

With much love and anticipation

John and Basma

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