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

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