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

God is Love

“Beloved, let us love one another, for love is from God, and whoever loves has been born of God and knows God. Anyone who does not love does not know God, because God is love.” (1 John 4:7-8)

February 14th sees St. Valentine's Day come around again...love is in the air!

You will probably have your own views on this particular celebration. Some of you will see it simply as commercial, till-ringing nonsense. Others of you will value it as an opportunity to re-affirm your love for someone...or to declare your love for someone for the very first time.

St Valentine was not, as some may think, an invention of the greeting card, floristry and confectionery industries but was a Roman priest martyred for secretly marrying Christian couples who were being persecuted by the Emperor Claudius.

Since Rebecca and I first became a couple as teenagers at school we have always celebrated Valentine's Day, exchanging cards and sharing a special meal together. For us it's an opportunity (hopefully not the only one of the year!) to remind each other of the love we share and to reaffirm the special place we hold in each other’s life.

Love is a major theme in the Bible too. Whilst in English we muddle through with just one word for love, the bible uses several Hebrew and Greek words for the different types of love. These include ‘eros’ for sensual, romantic love and ‘phileo’ for the deep friendship type of love.

But God's love for us in the New Testament is expressed using the word ‘agape’. This describes love that is far more than emotions or feelings. It is the unconditional love God has for every one of us, love that doesn’t depend on how ‘good’ we are or start only when we come to church. Agape is the same love that led Jesus to die for you and me on the cross, so that our relationship with God that had been broken by our sinfulness could be restored.

God never stops loving you and me, whatever is in our pasts...but as with the Valentine’s card, it's a love that deserves to be given in return.

David Wells, Acting leader, St. Mary's at the School

A New Year

I find myself, appropriately enough, writing this on New Year’s Eve. It’s a time for remembering 2018 but also for looking forward to new challenges in 2019. It is thought by many that January is so named after the Roman god of doorways, Janus, who is usually depicted with two faces - one looking backwards and one facing forwards. If that is correct (some think the month is named after Juno) then it is entirely appropriate. We’ve had the celebrations of the birth of Jesus Christ, which often involves heroic consumption and for many this needs to be atoned for by a quiet January. Cancer Research is even mounting a fund-raising campaign (Dryathlon) based on drinking no alcohol in January. Steady on is all I can say! Others will diet or take out gym membership as the short days and dank climate seem to make us rather remorseful.

If we look back at 2018 everyone will have different memories - some happy and some very sad. England got to the semi-finals of the football world cup, Alan and Jill Comfort moved on, Brexit probably didn’t, and the sun shone mightily all summer. It was daunting to get cover for the variety of services that our three churches host, but it happened thanks to huge amounts of time and effort from many inside and outside the Church. We are very grateful to all the visiting clergy who have helped us out over the last six months and we will continue to need their help until John arrives, and of course Caroline’s exceptional hard work. There are many others too, far too many to name but you know who they are!

You will probably have heard that we have appointed a new Rector, John Chitham, who with his wife Basma will be moving to the area and taking up the reins towards the end of March. He has a great deal of experience and a very easy manner about him. We are all looking forward to their arrival. One of the biggest challenges any one taking up the post will face, is the wide spectrum of worship provided - from BCP Communion, which is pretty much unchanged since the Reformation, to St Mary’s at the School where the emphasis is on much more charismatic and informal worship; and we have most other things in between as well.

For those who are ambivalent or even just plain agnostic and the gym doesn’t appeal, why not decide to try one of our services at Standon or Little Munden or Sacombe, you might surprise yourselves - and we don’t bite.

Derek, Churchwarden

Advent

Advent can easily be overlooked, but it’s an important season in the Church calendar. It’s a time of looking forward, not just to the holiday season, but beyond.
700 years before Jesus was born, Isaiah looked forward to a time when God would send a special King, who would ‘redeem’ God’s people. That’s a very churchy word, and we hear it a lot at Christmas time – Jesus, our Redeemer.
To redeem something or someone means to buy back something held or claimed by someone else, to recover something that has been pledged, to free a captive, by paying the amount due, the ransom price.
Even in Isaiah’s day, people felt pulled to act in ways they knew were wrong. Human nature, peer pressure, the busyness of life got in the way of them living as they knew God would want. They couldn’t seem to help themselves, and things kept going wrong for them. God promised to put that right, one day. God’s great King would come, and he would release us from the things that pull us in the wrong direction; he would pay the price of our freedom from all that separates us from God.
People looked forward to that time. Sometimes it seemed it would never come, but God keeps his promises, and at Christmas we remember the birth of the baby who is that King.
When Christmas comes, our churches will be busy with services. We’ll remember that baby, but that isn’t the end of the story. Jesus did come; he is the King, but still people act in ways that are wrong. The job of the King is not finished yet. And so, in Advent, we look forward to Christmas, but we also look forward to the time when the work will be done, God’s rule will prevail, and God will live with us, in peace and harmony. Many think that’s not going to happen now, after all this time, but God has kept the first part of his promise, and we can be sure that the second part is on its way, one day.
As we celebrate Christmas, let’s thank God for the baby who was born King, and let’s look forward to the day when he rules the whole world and God’s perfect kingdom comes.

Have a wonderful Christmas!

Caroline Franks, Reader (Licensed Lay Minister)

Lest we forget...

How do you try to remember significant times and events? Perhaps you put photographs into albums, or create scrapbooks of memories to look back on. For some, this offers comfort in times of bereavement or it can remind us of happy times. Recently I’ve been transferring old family videos to DVDs so that future generations of my family will be able to look back to see what their ancestors looked like and how they lived.

In this year of 2018, we will be looking back 100 years to the end of the Great War, as it was then innocently called. Specifically, back to the eleventh day of the eleventh month, and on the eleventh hour, when fifty-two months of bloody conflict came to an end as Allied and German leaders signed the Armistice which brought an end to the fighting on the Western Front.
Thousands of people will keep silence to bring to mind the countless thousands that have lost their lives in many wars, and especially this year, in World War 1, as it was known when it became clear that this wasn’t the war to end all wars.

I believe that it is important to remember the sacrifice made by ordinary men and women to ensure a free future for us all. Remembrance Sunday this year happens to fall on 11th November, making it especially significant. Do join us at one of the Remembrance services in our Benefice.

At this time of remembrance, we often hear the words in the Bible that Jesus spoke: “Greater love has no one than this, that someone lay down his life for his friends.” Jesus also said: “I am the good shepherd. The good shepherd lays down his life for the sheep.”

That is how God shows His great love for all of us; He came to us in human form, as Jesus, and gave His life so that those who believe in Him would not die, but would rise to eternal life: a life with Him in heaven, where ‘He will wipe away every tear from their eyes, and death shall be no more, neither shall there be mourning, nor crying, nor pain anymore, for the former things have passed away.’ (From the Bible, in the Book of Revelation, chapter 21, verse 4)

Marion Smith, Benefice Administrator

Churchwardens

A postcard from St Mary’s:

Dear All,
Having a great time, weather has been great, and the scenery and architecture is lovely, and the people I’ve met have all been very friendly.
Best wishes
Angie

I hope you don’t mind my sharing what I’ve been learning over the last few months about the role of a churchwarden. It has made me in awe of all the experienced churchwardens in the benefice and those who have undertaken the role in the past (and who are still providing support and encouragement to others).

Did you know the office of a churchwarden is a very old one and since the thirteenth century has been legally recognised?

A churchwarden is also a bishop’s officer and is accountable to the bishop. There are several things which must occur to become a churchwarden. Not least, being nominated by the congregation at the annual parochial church meeting (APCM), the person then attends the archdeacon’s visitation. All diocesan churchwardens attend this at the beginning of their first year of service and are required to sign a document and make a public declaration to faithfully and diligently perform the duties of a churchwarden.
As a member of the congregation I always came into to church having confidence that the service would help me feel close to God through spoken words and worship. I had never thought about how it happens. With the grace of God, the rector, lay readers, members of the PCC, finance committee, treasurers, church secretaries, benefice administrator, churchwardens, director of music and other unnamed people make this happen. A churchwarden represents the congregation and works with the rector on items which include how the Benefice is run, ensuring that worship happens and that the church building and churchyard are maintained, repaired and insured. Items such as the Inventory, terriers, registers, logbooks, quinquennial reports, fabric reports, insurance and risk assessments are all completed to try and ensure the safety and comfort of those who come into the church.

Why, you might ask, am I writing this?

Because I had no idea and thought you might like to know.
Through prayer and guidance of our previous rector, Alan, I felt I was being called to serve God in a different way. It was suggested this might be as a churchwarden. I had attended some churchwarden meetings last year, listening to discussions about the last pieces of the building work we had done last year, but did I know what to do if the lights failed in the bell tower and the switch was fifteen feet up, or the new toilet door showed empty when it was busy (could be an embarrassment)- NO. However, I am learning very slowly.
But most importantly I have learnt that our church buildings need to be welcoming and there for everyone in the community, and to be a signpost of what accepting God’s love can do for each person who enters through the doors.

Angie, Churchwarden

True Refreshment

September 30th marks the 50th anniversary of the very first jumbo jet, the Boeing 747 rolling off the production line. Perhaps you've been fortunate enough to fly on one of these huge aircraft or their smaller cousins on holiday this year? Or maybe you took advantage of the UK’s weather for a 'staycation'?

Rebecca and I enjoyed a family holiday in a villa in Spain with three generations, a party of eleven with three grandchildren all just over one year old. We couldn't say it was truly refreshing with the young ones waking anytime from 5am…but it was a joy to spend precious time with the whole family.

It ended rather hectically though, by me misreading the time of our homebound flight. We had to run from the shuttle bus to the terminal with buggies, car seats and travel cots plus the usual luggage, praying that we would make it…We checked in with just one minute to spare!…Then a dash through security and passport control to the farthest possible gate (of course) to board just before the doors were closed...phew!

But the refreshment of the holidays we look forward to so much all too soon becomes just a memory and it's back to life as usual. It begs the question, 'Where then do we find our true refreshment?'

In the Bible, a woman drawing water at the well asked Jesus a similar question. Jesus answered her, “Everyone who drinks this water will be thirsty again, but whoever drinks the water I give them will never thirst. Indeed, the water I give them will become in them a spring of water welling up to eternal life.” (John 4:13-14) Jesus uses the example of the refreshing water to help her understand the lasting spiritual refreshment that the Holy Spirit brings when we put our faith in Jesus.

Why not come along to a service at one of our churches? Or to our informal services, St Mary's at the School at Roger De Clare School on Sunday afternoons? You too may discover that Jesus will refresh the parts of your life that other things just cannot reach...

David & Rebecca Wells, Acting Leaders, St. Mary's at the School

A new chapter begins!

A Bible reading at a recent church service began with ‘The end of all things is near’. This could have seemed appropriate with Alan’s then imminent departure. The verse was referring to Jesus leaving his disciples and ascending into Heaven, and whilst Alan has achieved a huge amount we don’t want to push the comparison that far!

Given the need to advertise, shortlist, interview and appoint and the notice the new Rector will need to give their existing parish, even if everything runs smoothly, we are unlikely to fill the post until early 2019. However, all the members of the three Parochial Church Councils (PCCs) and those who will be involved in the vacancy and the appointment of a new Rector, will keep everything running as normally as possible.

Scheduled services will continue as usual; we are finding clergy to cover Communion services, but should we not be able to fill all these, we have had permission from the Bishop of Hertford for Caroline, our Licensed Lay Minister, to officiate. Weddings, funerals and Baptisms will continue as normal. Please contact our Benefice Administrator or one of the Churchwardens should you have enquiries about these. St Mary’s at the School, on Sunday afternoons, will continue, as will the Village Lunch in Dane End and other groups such as the women’s Oasis group, the Little Munden café, the Village Youth Club in Puckeridge and the Men’s Group.

The ‘end of all things’ is definitely not near, but anyone willing to get involved will be warmly welcomed.

God’s work doesn't stop. His loving care for us never ends and anyone in need in our parishes during this time, as always, can be assured that we are still here to help and pray with you.

The Churchwardens

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