Thursday, May 28, 2020

Be still and know: Day eight

The eighth of our reflective podcasts for the days between Ascension and Pentecost.

Wednesday, May 27, 2020

Be still and know: Day seven

The sixth of our reflective podcasts for the days between Ascension and Pentecost.

Tuesday, May 26, 2020

Be still and know: Day six

The sixth of our reflective podcasts for the days between Ascension and Pentecost.

Monday, May 25, 2020

...and in other news...Weekly newsletter from Seal Church

...and in other news...

A weekly newsletter from St Peter and St Paul, Seal, to help us keep in touch with one another at this time. 
Describing the indescribable; looking towards Pentecost.

There are some experiences we have which are very hard to put into words completely, no matter how hard we try; falling in love, grieving, bringing a child into the world – these are the things for which the word “ineffable” was coined, a word that means “too great or extreme to be expressed or described in words”. That seems to be what the early Christians felt about the Holy Spirit. This Sunday is the feast of Pentecost, or Whitsun, which commemorates the day when the disciples of Jesus, gathered in an upper room after his Ascension, felt themselves once more in the presence of God, just as they had been when they were with them. Words clearly failed them, because when Luke later wrote down the story, drawing on the accounts of those who had been there, he had to reach for images to give an idea of what had happened.
They had been told that they would take Jesus’ message to “Jerusalem, Judea, Samaria and to the ends of the earth”, but at that moment they didn’t even know how they would take it to the end of the road. Suddenly, according to Luke, they felt something mysterious happen. They heard something like the sound of a rushing wind, they saw something like fire, dancing on the heads of those who were there, and they were filled with confidence which drove them out onto the streets, bubbling over with the joy of the knowledge that God was with them, in them, closer than their own heartbeats. They began to speak in other languages, languages they didn’t know, the languages of visitors to Jerusalem. Those who heard them discovered that God spoke their language. God was at home with them, whatever obscure little corner of the world they came from…

Ever since, people have had moments when they have felt the presence of something beyond them, bigger than them, and have struggled to describe it, only able to say that it’s like something else.

The most common images used for the Holy Spirit are fire – something which both warms and excites but which can also purify and be terrifying - and wind, which has power to move even a huge ship but which can’t be seen. It is also sometimes pictured as a dove. In the book of Genesis, the Spirit (sometimes translated as the breath of God or a wind from God) is described as hovering over, or sweeping over the waters of chaos, bringing order from them, and when Jesus is baptised, the Spirit descends on him in the shape of a dove.
Anne Le Bas

  • Which image do you prefer - fire, wind or dove?
  • Have you ever felt that sense of being in the presence of something greater than yourself? How would you describe it?

Rochester Children and Youth work department have created a Pentecost colouring page, which can either be a dove, or a flame . You could colour it in and put it in your window for passers by to see. You can download it here.
Prayer of the week
Today – Monday 25th May -  marks the feast of the Venerable Bede (St Bede) who was born in about 672 and died on 26 May 735. He was a Benedictine monk, who entered the monastery at Monkwearmouth in the North East of England at the age of seven, and then moved to its twin monastery at Jarrow. According to legends, he was drawn to the monastic life by the lure of what seemed to him to be the vast library of the Abbot, probably about 250 books, which was large for the time (though I once counted mine and found they ran into thousands!)
He is most famous, though, not for what he read, but for what he wrote, the first history of England we have “The Ecclesiastical History of the English Speaking People”. He wrote on many other subjects too, though, including science, and gave us the term “Anno Domini” – the year of the Lord - to denote the time after the birth of Christ. He is buried in Durham Cathedral – Philip and I visited his tomb there this February.
This prayer, shared by Revd Canon Matthew Rushton, Precentor of Rochester Cathedral in the video below, picks up the image which is quoted beside his tomb, referring to Christ as the Morning Star. Matthew also quotes from what Bede has to say about the foundation of Rochester Cathedral.

O Christ our Morning Star
Splendour of Light Eternal
Shining with the glory of the rainbow
Come and waken us
from the greyness of our apathy
And renew in us your gift of hope.
HYMN Come down O love divine
This traditional hymn for Pentecost is set to a tune by Ralph Vaughan Williams called Down Ampney. The video below shows pictures from Down Ampney Church, where Vaughan Williams’ father was vicar.
The hymn is a translation of a medieval Italian poem by mystical poet, Bianco di Siena (c.1350-1434). Originally a wool carder from Siena, he joined an order of friars called the Jesuates. Rather like the Franciscans they were committed to living a life of poverty, and were known for their mystical and ecstatic practices of prayer. For more information about it, see the blog post here.

1 Come down, O Love divine,
seek thou this soul of mine,
and visit it with thine own ardor glowing;
O Comforter, draw near,
within my heart appear,
and kindle it, thy holy flame bestowing.

2 O let it freely burn,
till earthly passions turn
to dust and ashes in its heat consuming;
and let thy glorious light
shine ever on my sight,
and clothe me round, the while my path illuming.

3 And so the yearning strong,
with which the soul will long,
shall far outpass the power of human telling;
for none can guess its grace,
till Love create a place
wherein the Holy Spirit makes a dwelling.


Our Sunday morning Zoffee (Zoom with coffee – bring your own coffee!), as usual is at 11 am on Sunday morning. Email me at for the link.

Join us for our ZOOM CHOIR on Wednesday at 7.15pm.
There is very little that can’t be made better with a good sing, in my humble opinion…
We will be concentrating on singing some favourite hymns, including the one above, Come down, O love divine. Philip will send scans of the music and words to anyone who wants to join in. email Philip at for the link and music
You don’t have to be a member of our church choir to join in, and the glory of a Zoom choir session is that while you will be able to hear Philip and I, no one will be able to hear you, so it really doesn’t matter how good or bad you think your voice is!

Our ZOOM CHILDREN'S CHOIR will also meet this week, on Wednesday, at 5pm. For safeguarding reasons we can’t put the link here, but any children would be welcome to join in – just email me for the link at

The Friday Group also meets by Zoom on Friday morning for a chat – contact me if you’d like the link.
“BE STILL AND KNOW” – Ascensiontide prayer
If you want ten minutes or so of peaceful prayer , why not try out our series of Ascensiontide reflective podcasts this week.
You’ll be able to find them each day on the church website and blog, and I am also sharing links on Facebook and Twitter.
In a pressured and anxious world, it seems to me that it is important to find space to think and time to sit still, so these are very minimalist. I have given them the title “Be still and know”, from the Bible verse featured in the first podcast “Be still and know that I am God” (Psalm 46)
I hope you find them helpful.

If you or someone you know needs help in the Sevenoaks area (includes Seal) because their finances have been affected by the lockdown and may not fit the criteria for foodbanks , or you would like to donate to help others locally, this looks like a good option. Spread the word! Recipients will be able to ‘tailor make’ their basket from a  list of Tesco supermarket staples, up to a maximum value of £25, so that at least some things stay familiar in this very strange world that we all find ourselves in.
Seal Church Garden Giveaway
Seal Church Garden Giveaway – Keep the plants coming!
As quickly as I put plants outside the lychgate for people to take away they vanish! Thanks to those who contributed plants to add to mine last week. Keep them coming!  Please label them, or no one will know what they are, and leave them in the baskets. I will keep them watered.

What has everyone been up to?Lavender Fields Care Home

Our Sunday morning Zoom meeting (see above) has rapidly become a fixture. We were delighted that some of our friends from Lavender Fields care home were able to join us this week, and hope to see them again. I am thinking of trying to put on a Zoom service for them (and anyone else who wants to join in). Watch this space!

The Tuesday home group has continued to meet via Zoom, and have been looking at the story of St Paul over recent weeks. They sent me this update.
Caravaggio: The conversion of  St Paul on the way to Damascus“The Tuesday evening Home Group (Mark Wivine Babs and Vanessa) are continuing to meet up on Zoom. Amongst the chat and glugging of tea and wine, we have been looking at Paul’s conversion - from persecutor of Jesus’ disciples and their followers of the Way to becoming a disciple proclaiming the message of Jesus to the Gentiles. We read Paul’s own account in Galatians chapters 1 and 2 where he admits he was ‘violently persecuting the church of God’ (Galatians 1 v13 b.) but after that extraordinary encounter with Jesus on the road to Damascus  became a ‘servant of Christ’ so that the Gentiles ‘glorified God because of me’ (Galatians 1 v24). We also read Luke’s account in Acts (chapter 9) which relates Saul’s blindness and helplessness after 'meeting’ Jesus, not eating or drinking for three days before ‘he was ‘filled with the Holy Spirit’ and 'something like scales fell from his eyes (Acts 9 v 17 and 18). We were amazed by how he was transformed both physically and spiritually by his ‘revelation of Jesus Christ' and awed by God’s power to change the murderer to a preacher, the man of action to a man of words. We were struck too (!) by Paul’s faith, his persistence and resilience as he in turn becomes persecuted for being a disciple of Jesus. “

Some classes at Seal School will be going back to school next Monday – Nursery, Yrs R, 1 and 6, plus the children of key workers who have been in school throughout the lockdown. Please pray for them, and for their teachers, who have had to do a lot of work to think through ways of keeping everyone safe as they return.

Meanwhile in Hilary Curtis’ blue tit nest…Oh dear! What a gruelling time it has been watching this… Of the 10 chicks that hatched, only four have survived this far… I don’t know how you can bear it, Hilary!
This picture was taken when there were six survivors.

And finally...

In case you are finding lockdown tedious, here are some thoughts from Henri the Cat, who sympathises.
Copyright © 2020 St Peter and St Paul, Seal, All rights reserved.

Be still and know: Day five

The fifth of our reflective podcasts for the days between Ascension and Pentecost.

Sunday, May 24, 2020

Sunday Worship May 24

Links to our Sunday worship are below:

Morning Worship Podcast        Morning Worship Service sheet       Morning hymn words
Evensong Podcast                    Evensong Service sheet                    Evensong Hymn Words

View of Jerusalem from Olivet
Today is the Sunday after Ascension Day, which comes forty days after Easter. Ascension Day celebrates the moment when Jesus led his disciples out to Mount Olivet, the mount of Olives, which is to the east of Jerusalem overlooking it. It was the direction from which it was believed the Messiah would come to enter Jerusalem, and it was the same place which Jesus had set off from on Palm Sunday to enter the city. No wonder people were so excited to see him. They thought this was the moment when God would intervene in history, overthrow their Roman oppressors and usher in a new age of peace in which Israel would be recognised and honoured.
But Jesus' entry into Jerusalem led not to political or military triumph, but to the cross.

When he led his disciples there after the resurrection they must have thought that now, finally, the victory they had hoped for then was about to happen. Again, they had got it wrong, though. Instead of leading them into Jerusalem, Jesus was taken up into heaven, having told them that they were now the ones who would take Jesus' message out into the world, to Jerusalem and Judea, familiar territory, Samaria, a place which they normally avoided, since Jews and Samaritans didn't get on, and out to "the ends of the earth". The followers of Jesus were not to be an inward looking sect. Jesus had proclaimed a message of love for the whole world. Those first disciples, and many since, were called to go beyond their comfort zones to love others as Jesus had loved them. If they hadn't taken that call seriously, perhaps the message would never have reached the damp, cold island in the far, frozen north called Britannia, and we wouldn't be here today...

Ascension Day is a good day to remember the worldwide church and pray for its continuing mission of love (not least that it might be a mission of love, and not one of division and empire building!)

  • What is the furthest you have travelled? Do you have friends and relatives in other countries?
  • If you have a world map at home, think of the places you have links to through people you know or journey's you've made and pray for each of them. 
  • There is an online world map here - you can click on the countries to see them in more detail. 
  • What do you think God is calling you to do today? 
Our podcast worship today featured the hymn "All hail the power of Jesu's name" sung to a tune called  Coronation. We often sing it at Seal to "Diadem", a splendid hymn which breaks into two parts at the end, which always confuses the unwary... Sing along with this for practice! 
The words of the hymn were written by Edward Perronet (1721-1792,) who was the son of a Vicar of Shoreham, up the road from us. Edward Perronet was associated with the Wesleys in the early days of the Methodist movement. 

Ten minutes or so of peace. Prayers, guided silence and a Bible verse to reflect on each day from May 21 (Ascension Day) to May 30, the eve of Pentecost. 

All Age ideas

Be still and know: Day Four

The fourth of our podcast reflections for the days between Ascension and Pentecost.

Saturday, May 23, 2020

Be still and know: Day Three

The third of our reflective podcasts for the days between Ascension and Pentecost.

Friday, May 22, 2020

Be still and know: Day Two

The second of our reflective podcasts for the days between Ascension and Pentecost.

Thursday, May 21, 2020

Be Still : Day One

The first of our ten daily podcast reflective times is here. Click on the picture to access it.
It is just ten minutes or so of prayers, guided silence, and a Bible verse to ponder.
I hope you'll find in it an opportunity to pause from the anxious activism which  this strange time, with its pressures and demands, can so often produce and be aware of God's presence and God's grace.
The first podcast offers us a chance to meditate on the verse which gives the series it's name. "Be still and know that I am God." What might God be saying to you through this verse today?

Monday, May 18, 2020

and in other news... Seal Church's Weekly newsletter

...and in other news...

A weekly newsletter from St Peter and St Paul, Seal, to help us keep in touch with one another at this time. 
What’s your favourite local walk or cycle ride?
My guess is that many of us have been exploring our local landscape a lot in the past couple of months. If we’ve been able to get out and about at all, we’ve been limited to walking or cycling from home, and though those restrictions have been eased a bit, I suspect most of us still aren’t going too far afield. For many, to judge from Facebook pictures I’ve seen, it’s been a pleasant surprise to discover the beauty and interest on our own doorsteps.

The few days before Ascension Day (this Thursday- May 21) are known as Rogation Days, and have traditionally been associated with the custom of “beating the bounds”, walking round the parish boundaries, armed with sticks, hitting the boundary markers, supposedly to reinforce the knowledge of where they were.

To enhance the lesson, choir boys sometimes found themselves “bumped” at the boundary stones. As the procession wound its way around the parish, the fields would be blessed by the priest, and a good harvest prayed for. The Church of England, (while not sanctioning the bumping of children!) has reinvigorated this festival  in its modern resources for worship with prayers that we can use  in services and walks. One of them features as the prayer of the week, below.

But Rogationtide wasn’t originally an agricultural festival at all, and had nothing to do with establishing parish boundaries. It started in cities, way back in the fifth century, when churches took the relics of their saints out from their churches around the parish, visiting chapels and shrines and holy wells which were significant landmarks, like this procession (right) with the relics of St Gregory, pictured in the "Tres Riches Heures du Duc de Barry" from the fifteenth century.  Rogation comes from the Latin word “rogare”,which means “to pray”. These were penitential processions, in which people prayed for forgiveness and blessing publicly. They were supposed to be solemn affairs, though priests often complained that people were using them as an excuse for a day out and picnic… I spent quite a bit of my sabbatical last year investigating this tradition, and can bore for England on the subject. I will try not to here, but if you want to know more about Rogationtide, head over to the blog I wrote recording some of my thoughts (and travels). Philip and I discovered that in Catholic countries, the tradition of “taking your saint for a walk” as I came to call it, was very much alive and well around this time of year. We shared in the procession of Sant’Efisio in Cagliari, Sardinia, and saw lots of evidence of other processions which had just happened or were about to.

Rogation processions, whether ancient or modern, formal or just a ramble, have the wonderful potential to remind us that God cares about the place where we are and that he is at work in the place where we are. Perhaps our local walks and cycle rides this week could be moments when we pray for our own locality, and those who live and work in it.
Prayer of the week
Remember, Lord, your mercy and loving-kindness towards us.
Bless this good earth, and make it fruitful.
Bless our labour, and give us all things needful for our daily lives.
Bless the homes of this parish and all who live within them.
Bless our common life and our care for our neighbour.
Hear us, good Lord.

From the litany for Rogationtide processions, Common Worship, The Church of England.
The Rogation Days (Monday to Wednesday of this week) lead up to Ascension Day, the day when the Church remembers Jesus’ Ascension into heaven. It’s a day which reminds us that our faith is both heavenly and earthly. It’s very much about the here and now, but we're also promised that there's more to life than meets the eye, that what we see is not necessarily all we get! Jesus ascends into heaven, with a body that bears the scars of his earthly suffering, taking with him  all our earthly, physical joys and sorrows. God made the material world, and delights in it; earthly existence isn't a second best, something to be shed gratefully at death, but something to be enjoyed, honoured and treasured.
The story is wonderfully illustrated in the stained glass window in our own Lady Chapel at Seal.
Margaret Blackburn R.I.P
Just as I was about to send this email I heard that Margaret Blackburn, the wife of the previous vicar here at Seal, had died after a long illness (not coronavirus related). Many will remember Margaret with fondness, I know, and we hold the whole family in our prayers as they mourn her loss at this very difficult time. 
Philip is organising the first of our Zoom singing sessions for the choir, and anyone else who'd like to join in, on Wednesday evening at 7.30pm this week. We can’t all sing together because of the time delay, so everyone except Philip and I will be muted,  but people can all sing along at home – a great way to join in if you are shy about anyone else hearing you!   Email Philip ( for the link if you don’t usually sing with the choir – anyone can join in. We will be concentrating on singing some well known and loved hymns.

Children’s Choir will meet by Zoom again on Wed at 5pm – we had a great first session last week. Email me ( for the link. Again, anyone is welcome, whether they normally come to Children’s Choir or not.
To get your tonsils in trim if you are planning to join us for our choir zoom (or even if you're not) , why not sing along with this rousing rendition of the traditional Ascension Day hymn,  "Hail the day that sees him rise". Words (below) are by Charles Wesley, to the traditional Welsh tune Llanfair.
1 Hail the day that sees him rise, Alleluia!
to his throne beyond the skies. Alleluia!
Christ, awhile to mortals given, Alleluia!
Reascends His native heaven, Alleluia!

2 There for him high triumph waits; Alleluia!
lift your heads, eternal gates. Alleluia!
He has conquered death and sin; Alleluia!
take the King of glory in. Alleluia!

3 Highest heaven its Lord receives; Alleluia!
yet he loves the earth he leaves. Alleluia!
Though returning to his throne, Alleluia!
still he calls the world his own. Alleluia!

4 See he lifts his hands above; Alleluia!
See he shows the prints of love. Alleluia!
Hark his gracious lips bestow ;Alleluia!
Blessings on his Church below; Alleluia!
For a very different treatment of a traditional hymn, listen to this version of Abide with me, played by Jools Holland, for Rochester Cathedral this week. Jools is a Patron of the Cathedral.
The period between Ascension and Pentecost (Whitsun) is now marked by a new tradition - “Thy Kingdom Come”. This is an international initiative to encourage prayer. My contribution to it this year is a series ten daily reflective podcasts, each with three periods of a couple of minutes silence in them, some prayers and some words from the Bible to ponder. You’ll be able to find them each day on the church website and blog, and I will also share links on Facebook and Twitter.
In a pressured and anxious world, it seemed to me that it was important to find space to think and time to sit still, so these are very minimalist. I have given them the title “Be still and know”, from the Bible verse featured in the first podcast “Be still and know that I am God” (Psalm 46)
I hope you will find them helpful.

You can find out more about "Thy Kingdom Come" here.

If you or someone you know needs help in the Sevenoaks area (includes Seal) because their finances have been affected by the lockdown , or you would like to donate to help others locally, this looks like a good option. Spread the word!

"Lockdown Larder initiative was launched in mid April 2020, by 'Care for Our Community - Sevenoaks' and is a short-term project to help Sevenoaks town residents whose income has been temporarily and drastically reduced during the coronavirus crisis and lockdown, and are struggling to pay for their weekly food shop.

Lockdown Larder is here to help the members of our community who were completely self-sufficient two months ago, and so may not fit the criteria for food banks, but now suddenly find themselves with no work or on a much reduced wage, through absolutely no fault of their own.

Lockdown Larder can supply a basic food basket of fresh & packaged produce, including meat, fish, fruit & vegetables, to help the household out, until they are able to get back to work and get back on their feet again.

Lockdown Larder want to preserve as much independence and dignity as possible for people during these extraordinary circumstances. Our residents will be able to ‘tailor make’ their basket from our list of Tesco supermarket staples, up to a maximum value of £25, so that at least some things stay familiar in this very strange world that we all find ourselves in."
Seal Church Garden Giveaway
I put a couple of baskets of spare plants – tomatoes, courgettes, snapdragons etc. - outside the lychgate on Saturday for people to help themselves to, with a suggestion that they might like to donate to the church, though they didn’t have to. Within 24 hours they were all gone. I am about to replenish the stock, but if anyone else has seedlings or bits of plants to share (label them, please, or no one will know what they are!) please just leave them in the baskets. I will keep them watered.
A reminder that if you normally give in the collection plate, (or even if you don’t!) you can also donate to Seal Church either by bank transfer, cheque made payable to Seal Parochial Church Council, or by texting SEALCHURCH followed by the amount you want to give – so SEALCHURCH10 to donate £10 etc to 70085. Like all charities, the bills need to be paid, but we have lost all our income from hall hire, weddings and giving in the plate at the moment, leaving us very short., who process the text donations take  5% commission on all payments, so if you are giving regularly it is better for us if you take out a standing order which you can do using the 
form on the website, or by contacting the Treasurer, Vanessa Griffiths on 07734 899058.

And finally...

A traditional feature of our Easter Day service is the moment when I take some water from the font and sprinkle the congregation liberally with it, to remind us of our baptisms. I am usually accompanied by a trail of enthusiastic, but rather damp, children when I do this. I missed doing it this year, but have taken notes from a story I saw in the Guardian of a possible alternative approach if I need one in the future. Hats off to this parish priest from Detroit for thinking out of the box with this water pistol and drive by approach…
Timothy Pelc conducts the traditional Blessing of the Easter Baskets at St Ambrose Catholic church in April. Photograph: Jim West/Zuma Wire/Rex/Shutterstock
Copyright © 2020 St Peter and St Paul, Seal, All rights reserved.

Sunday, May 17, 2020

Sunday worship May 17

The links to our worship this week are below


Morning Worship Podcast        Morning Worship Service sheet       Morning hymn words
Evensong Podcast                    Evensong Service sheet                    Evensong Hymn Words

For those who can't use the internet, there is now a "dial a podcast" service, giving access by phone to the reading, talk and prayer from each Sunday morning's service. Please pass on the phone number to them - 01732 928061. Calls cost the normal rate for dialing an 01732 (Sevenoaks) number.

This week's sermon ponders Jesus' words to his disciples on the night before his crucifixion, " I will not leave you orphaned". 
He knows they will feel bereft and alone when they cannot see him physically. He reassures them that though they might feel alone, they will not be alone. He will be with them in his Holy Spirit, found in the stillness of prayer, in the words of the Bible, in the love they give and receive to one another and to those around them. 

To be orphaned in the ancient world was very frightening, not only emotionally, as it would be for anyone, but also practically. In a world with no welfare state, you needed to have a family around you to support you. Orphans and widows were often mentioned in the Bible as groups who especially needed help. They came at the top of God's list of priorities, high on his heart, because of their vulnerability. There are, of course, many orphans and widows around the world today, for whom life is still just as tough. The video below, shared as part of Christian Aid week, which ends today, tells the story of one widow, Rose, struggling to support her children and grandchildren. In helping her, Christian Aid, and all who donate, are helping us to live out God's promise that no one should be left orphaned. In helping her, we declare that we are all part of the family of God, belonging to him and to one another. 

To find out more about the work of Christian Aid and to donate click here