Friday, December 04, 2020

Sing Christmas Day 5

It came upon the midnight clear,
That glorious song of old,
From angels bending near the earth,
To touch their harps of gold;
“Peace on the earth, good will to men,
From Heaven’s all gracious King.”
The world in solemn stillness lay,
To hear the angels sing.

Still through the cloven skies they come
With peaceful wings unfurled,
And still their heavenly music floats
O’er all the weary world;
Above its sad and lowly plains,
They bend on hovering wing,
And ever over its Babel sounds
The bless├Ęd angels sing.

Yet with the woes of sin and strife
The world has suffered long;
Beneath the angel strain have rolled
Two thousand years of wrong;
And man, at war with man, hears not
The love-song which they bring;
O hush the noise, ye men of strife
And hear the angels sing.

For lo! the days are hastening on,
By prophet-bards foretold,
When with the ever circling years
Comes round the age of gold;
When peace shall over all the earth
Its ancient splendours fling,
And the whole world send back the song
Which now the angels sing.

 Edmund Hamilton Sears 1810 -1876

Written by a Unitarian minister in Wayland, Massachusetts, this carol speaks of God’s peace coming to the world. Sears imagines angels singing not just to the shepherds, but to the whole world, announcing a new way of peace to any who will listen to it.

The carol was written twelve years before the U.S. Civil war in 1861. Perhaps Sears was aware of mounting tension? This is certainly a carol tinged with sadness at the way in which “men of strife” (and women too) so often fail to hear God’s voice. The future, implies this carol, is in our hands. God, in Christ, has given us what we need to live in peace. It is up to us whether we use his gift wisely.

·         Are you hopeful for the world? What are your worries for it?
·         “Hush the noise, ye men of strife” – What is the “noise” you might need to “hush” in your life?

Bible Reading: For a child has been born for us, a son given to us;
authority rests upon his shoulders; and he is named Wonderful Counsellor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace. His authority shall grow continually,    and there shall be endless peace for the throne of David and his kingdom. Isaiah 9.6-7

Thursday, December 03, 2020

Sing Christmas Day 4

Of the Father's heart begotten,
ere the world from chaos rose,
he is Alpha: from that Fountain
all that is and hath been flows;
He is Omega, of all things
yet to come the mystic Close!
Evermore and evermore!

By his word was all created;
He commanded and ‘twas done;
Earth and sky and boundless ocean,
Universe of three in one,
All that sees the moon’s soft radiance,
All that breathes beneath the sun
Evermore and evermore!

O how blest that wondrous birthday
When the Maid the curse retrieved,
brought to birth mankind’s salvation,
By the Holy Ghost conceived;
And the Babe, the world’s Redeemer,
In her loving arms received,
Evermore and evermore!

Sing ye heights of heav’n his praises
Angels and Archangels sing!
Wheresoe’r ye be, ye faithful,
let your joyous anthems ring,
Ev’ry tongue his name confessing
Countless voices answering
Evermore and evermore!

Aurelius Clemens Prudentius 348-413, trans. Roby Furley Davis, 1906.


This is one of our most ancient Christmas Carols, translated from a Latin hymn from the fourth century, which was written by Aurelius Prudentius. He was a Roman Christian from what is now Northern Spain. He was a lawyer and provincial governor, but late in life withdrew to follow an ascetic way of life, writing poetry, hymns and theological works.

His hymn is a beautiful meditation on the Incarnation, written in mystical language, which sets the birth of Jesus in the context of the grand story of creation and re-creation. It echoes the language of the first chapter of John’s Gospel, often read at Christmas, ”In the beginning was the Word…All things came into being through him, and without him not one thing came into being.” We are part of that creation, part of “all that sees the moon’s soft radiance”. Although this beauty has been marred by human sin, Jesus’ birth in Bethlehem is the start of a re-creation, which heals that damage. He is a gift to us that is “of the Father’s heart”, a gift of his love for a world he will never abandon.

·         Read the hymn slowly. Which phrases or words stand out for you?
·         Who or what is on your heart today; people you care for or worry about? In the same way, you are on God’s heart today. How does that make you feel?

Bible Reading: See what kind of love the Father has given us, that we should be called children of God; and that is what we are. 1 John 3. 1

Wednesday, December 02, 2020

Happy Birthday, Barbara

I have just popped in (masked and socially distanced, of course) to drop off a card from the church, along with some others people had given me, to our lovely Barbara Arnold, who is 100 today.  She was very much enjoying the day, and looking very glamorous. She had just had a surprise visit from children from Seal School who stood outside, at a safe distance, to sing Happy Birthday to her and give her the home made card they had made. I also got to see Barbara's birthday card from the Queen, so I feel very privileged!

Barbara has been a much valued part of the local community in Seal throughout her life, and a faithful member of the church, setting up for our midweek communion until just a few years ago and after she became unable to get to church, receiving communion at home. She maintains a lively interest in what is happening in the village, just as she has always done, and is one of our local treasures. Happy Birthday, Barbara.

And here is the birthday cake which Barbara made herself... complete with handmade icing roses. I am sure it will taste as good as it looks.

Sing Christmas Day 3

 O little town of Bethlehem,
how still we see thee lie!
Above thy deep and dreamless sleep
the silent stars go by;
yet in thy dark streets shineth
the everlasting Light;
the hopes and fears of all the years
are met in thee tonight.

O morning stars, together
proclaim the holy birth!
and praises sing to God the King,
and peace to men on earth.
For Christ is born of Mary;
and gathered all above,
while mortals sleep, the angels keep
their watch of wondering love.

How silently, how silently,
the wondrous gift is given!
So God imparts to human hearts
the blessings of his heaven.
No ear may hear his coming,
but in this world of sin,
where meek souls will receive him, still
the dear Christ enters in.

O holy Child of Bethlehem,
descend to us, we pray:
cast out our sin and enter in,
be born in us today.
We hear the Christmas angels
the great glad tidings tell;
O come to us, abide with us,
our Lord Emmanuel! 

 Philip Brooks (1835-1893


This is surely one of the most popular of all Christmas carols. It is a tender evocation of the town (in reality no more than a village) of Bethlehem, in the middle of an apparently ordinary night, unaware that something world changing is happening in it -“the hopes and fears of all the years are met in thee tonight.”

Bethlehem had found itself centre-stage unexpectedly once before. It was the birthplace of the child who would become the great King David. He was just a shepherd boy when he was anointed by Samuel, the youngest and smallest of the family, almost overlooked, living in an insignificant backwater. Bethlehem was not grand or wealthy – an unlikely place for a King - or a Messiah - to be born, but this is where it happens, when no one is looking - “while mortals sleep”.
The carol encourages us to see ourselves too as the birthplace of Jesus, however unlikely that might feel. We are the place in which God chooses to come into the world. “Be born in us today” says the carol.

·         Have you ever lived anywhere where something significant once happened? What would you feel if you discovered that someone important had been born next door to  you?
·         How easy do you find it to think of the words “be born in us today” as applying to you?

Bible Reading: The Word became flesh, and lived among us. John 1.14

Tuesday, December 01, 2020

Sing Christmas Day 2

 Lo! He comes with clouds descending, 
Once for favoured sinners slain; 
Thousand thousand saints attending, 
Swell the triumph of his train:
Hallelujah! Hallelujah! Hallelujah!
God appears on earth to reign.

Every eye shall now behold him
Robed in dreadful majesty;
We who set at naught and sold him,
Pierced and nailed him to the tree,
Deeply wailing, deeply wailing, deeply wailing,
Shall the true Messiah see.

Those dear tokens of his passion
Still his dazzling body bears;
Cause of endless exultation
To his ransomed worshippers;
With what rapture, with what rapture, with what rapture
Gaze we on those glorious scars!

Yea, Amen!  let all adore thee,
High on thine eternal throne;
Saviour, take the power and glory,
Claim the kingdom for thine own;
Alleluia, Alleluia, Alleluia!
Thou shalt reign, and thou alone

Charles Wesley 1707- 88, based on verses by John Cennick 1718-55


This hymn, written by the great Methodist hymn-writer, Charles Wesley,  reminds us that God’s presence can be challenging as well as comforting.

Advent is not only a time when we recall the first “coming” of Jesus in Bethlehem, but also, traditionally, a time to contemplate his “second coming”. For most of Christian history Christians took this belief literally. Christ would reappear, “with clouds descending” at some future point in history. For some this was a very important idea. African-American slaves sung of it often in their songs; the second coming meant the end of their sufferings, as Christ would establish justice. Many Christians now would understand this metaphorically, though, believing that Christ comes into the world daily in us and through us, and to us through the lives of others.
Whatever we believe about the second coming, the idea that Christ might show up at some point can be uncomfortable. Would we be in a state of “endless exultation” or will we be “deeply wailing” if his light shone into our hearts?

·         What do you believe about the second coming of Christ?
·         If Christ came back tomorrow, what might you wish you had got around to changing in your life?

Bible Reading: God did not send his son into the world to condemn the world, but that the world might be saved through him. John 3.17

Monday, November 30, 2020

Outdoor Carol Service

The government's announcement yesterday that outdoor carol singing will be allowed over Christmas means that we will be able to hold a short carol service in our churchyard on Dec 20.
No congregational singing is allowed inside the church, so we can't sing at any of our other services over Christmas, but this will be a lovely opportunity to sing our favourites together, socially distanced from one another of course. The service will last about 30 minutes.

Advent Windows

Look out for a new Advent window around the village each day during Advent.

You can find this week’s windows in the roads below. Look out for a number in the window, like the one on the right. If you visit all the Advent windows, either as they open or all together on a Boxing Day walk at the end, you will find a letter in each one which, unscrambled, will form a message. The windows will stay up until Dec 29.
Dec     1.Church Road
2. Church Road
3. Zambra Way
4. Zambra Way
5. High Street (north side)
6. High Street (south side)
You can find a map telling you where to find the Advent windows by clicking on the picture below. If you need a printed version and don't have a printer, email me at and I will print one for you, or there is a copy pinned to the church gates for you to view.

Sing Christmas Day 1


O come, O come, Emmanuel
And ransom captive Israel
That mourns in lonely exile here
Until the Son of God appear.

Rejoice! Rejoice! Emmanuel
Shall come to thee, O Israel.

O come, Thou Rod of Jesse, free
Thine own from Satan's tyranny
From depths of Hell thy people save
And give them victory o'er the grave

O come, Thou Day-Spring, come and cheer
Our spirits by thine advent here
Disperse the gloomy clouds of night
And death's dark shadows put to flight.

O come, thou Key of David, come,
And open wide our heavenly home;
Make safe the way that leads on high,
And close the path to misery.

O come, O come, Thou Lord of might,
Who to Thy tribes, on Sinai's height,
In ancient times did'st give the Law,
In cloud, and majesty and awe.

From the Great O Antiphons, 12-13th C, trans. John Mason Neale (1818-1866)

We begin our meditations with a few carols and hymns associated with Advent rather than Christmas. Advent comes from a Latin word that means “to come”. In Advent we think about those who at the time of Christ longed for God’s promised Messiah to come, and we think too of our own longings for ourselves and for the world.
This hymn draws on a traditional set of responses used at the evening service of Vespers called the “Great O Antiphons”.  They plead for Christ to come, using Biblical images for Jesus that have their roots in the Old Testament. Though the hymn is ancient, the longings of those who wrote it are easily recognisable. They feel they are in exile. They long to come home, to be free, to find light and hope in times of trouble, and to find God’s guiding presence now, just as ancient Israel did when Moses was given the Law on Mount Sinai. The refrain reassures them that help is on the way.

·         Which verse of the hymn speaks to you most powerfully?
·         What do you long for right now?
·         Do you believe God will give you what you need and long for?

Bible Reading: Jesus says: Listen! I am standing at the door and knocking:if you hear my voice and open the door I will come in to you and eat with you , and you with me. Revelation 3.20

Sunday, November 29, 2020

Sunday worship podcast links and other news Advent Sunday

Nov 29 Advent 1

Morning Worship podcast   Morning service sheet         Hymn words (both services)

Evensong podcast  Evensong service sheet

On Zoom this week  email for links

Zoffee Sunday Nov 29, 2020 11:15 AM 

Wednesday Zoom Church 11 am. An informal service including Bible reading, prayer and a short talk.
Zoom Children’s Choir  Wed 5-5.30pm  Fun singing with Anne Le Bas
Zoom Adult choir  Wednesday 7.15 pm contact for the link.

Sunday services next week: Dec 6
10am               Holy Communion
4pm                 Story Church
6.30pm            Evensong

Today marks the start of Advent. It’s the beginning of the Church’s year, as we prepare to celebrate the birth of Christ. Traditionally Advent was a season like Lent, during which people fasted, or at least tried to clear space in their lives for reflection, before the feast of Christmas, allowing themselves to acknowledge the darkness in themselves and in the world around them, so that the light of Christ was all the brighter when it dawned on Christmas day.

In Church, Christmas begins as Christmas Eve turns to Christmas Day. It then continues through the feast of the Epiphany on Jan 6, and beyond that to Candlemas on Feb 2.

Of course this year Advent and Christmas will be different for all of us. Many of the things we would normally do in December won’t be possible, in church as well as at home – there are more details of our plans for this year below. Maybe that will help us to see Advent and Christmas in a new light, though, reclaiming some of the stillness which is normally driven out by the parties and noise and crowds, and helping us to see through the trimmings to what really matters, the love which is at the heart of Christmas whatever is going on around us, and which endures when the tinsel and trimmings are packed away and the turkey is all eaten up. It’s this love which will see us through the tough times we are going through, if we will let it.
There are many ways in which we can help ourselves to find meaning in Advent. Lighting Advent candles, opening Advent calendars, giving ourselves food for thought, such as through our daily reflections on our blog, or colouring in the Advent picture, for example - see below for links to these resources. We can also look outwards towards others, making a “reverse Advent calendar” by putting aside some tinned or packaged food each day, to be dropped off in church for the foodbank at the end of Advent, or by supporting a charity. We can reconnect with others – maybe that scrawled Christmas card, usually dashed off in haste because we are busy, could be a bit longer and more personal this year, or we might find the time to phone, Skype or Zoom old friends.
However we observe it, Advent matters. It is a gift, and a blessing, to us, and perhaps this year more than any other we may have a chance to do things differently and make the most of it, opening our eyes to look for the small signs of God at work in us and around us.

There is more about observing Advent in the video I included in last week's newsletter - link here in case you missed it then.

 All Age ideas

As well as the ideas in the video above, there are lots of ideas at this link for making an Advent ring, to help you count down to Christmas.
You could make an Advent Angel and hide it around the house each day during Advent for others in the house to find.

Join in our Advent Windows trail. Look for the Advent windows around the village - see below for details.

Would you like us to pray for you?
Email your prayer requests to:
Your email will be read by Anne Le Bas and Kevin Bright, the Vicar and Reader of Seal Church who will hold you in their prayers. 
HYMN OF THE WEEK     Christ be our light

Longing for light, we wait in darkness
Longing for truth, we turn to You.
Make us Your own, Your holy people
Light for the world to see.
Christ, be our light!
Shine in our hearts.
Shine through the darkness.
Christ, be our light!
Shine in Your church gathered today.

Longing for peace, our world is troubled
Longing for hope, many despair.
Your word alone has pow'r to save us.
Make us your living voice.
Longing for food, many are hungry
Longing for water, many still thirst.
Make us Your bread, broken for others
Shared until all are fed.
Rather than one of the classic Advent hymns, this week I have included this week a modern hymn by Bernadette Farrell, Christ be our Light.
(There will be lots of Advent and Christmas carols included in our Advent series “Sing Christmas” which you can find online on the blog – see here for the introduction  Bernadette Farrell was born in 1957. A Roman Catholic, she has been involved in producing liturgical music for most of her adult life, and has worked in the East End. She was one of the founding members of London Citizens, now expanded into Citizens UK, a grassroots community organisation which works to connect people to one another and work for justice for all. 
This hymn reflects her passion for justice, and her awareness of the real darkness with which many people have to contend with on a daily basis. It calls us to look for the light of Christ and share it with others, not just in words, but in action.
  • How could you find and share the light with others this Advent?
Prayer of the week

Come to us, Lord Jesus Christ,
Come as we search the Scriptures and see God’s hidden purpose,
Come as we walk the lonely road, needing a companion,
Come when life mystifies and perplexes us,
Come into our disappointments and unease,
Come at table where we share our food and hopes,
And, coming, open our eyes to recognise you.

Donald Hilton (1932-2012)
Advent literally means “coming”, and this prayer by Donald Hilton, explores the ways in which Jesus might come to us. Donald Hilton was an United Reformed Church minister, eventually becoming the Moderator of the National URC church, and was known for his compilations of prayers. This is one of his own composition.


Look out for a new Advent window around the village each day during Advent.
You can find this week’s windows in the roads below. Look out for a number in the window, like the one on the right. If you visit all the Advent windows, either as they open or all together on a Boxing Day walk at the end, you will find a letter in each one which, unscrambled, will form a message. The windows will stay up until Dec 29.
Dec     1.Church Road
2. Church Road
3. Zambra Way
4. Zambra Way
5. High Street (north side)
6. High Street (south side)
You can find a map telling you where to find the Advent windows by clicking on the picture below. If you need a printed version and don't have a printer, email me at and I will print one for you, or there is a copy pinned to the church gates for you to view.


If you love a good sing, check out the series of reflections on well-known carols on our Church blog each day through Advent. The series starts tomorrow, Nov 30, and each post contains a Youtube video of the carol to sing along to. We won’t be able to sing in church this Advent and Christmas, but you can belt out carols at home as loudly and often as you like (or your nearest and dearest will let you!)
There is an introduction on the blog today, but then check back (or follow us on Facebook or Twitter) where links will be posted.
You can also download a printable version here.
Drawing and colouring can be a very good way to slow ourselves down and reflect. If you like to do this there is an Advent colouring sheet here. Simply find the “candle ray” for each day, read the Bible verse which goes with it and fill in the space however you would like to. You can write, draw or just fill in the space with colour and pattern. If you would like to, send me a photo of your colouring as you go along or at the end, and I will share it on our social media.
Our plans for Christmas are still in development, as we are waiting for detailed guidance on what will be possible for us in tier 3. We do know that we won’t be able to sing carols in church, and that places will be limited to 39, socially distanced at services in church, but there will be plenty of ways to celebrate, online and offline with Seal Church this year.
Current plans include the following - but I will let you know if there are changes or additions.
Dec 20
  • Online Carol service video, with carols from Seal Choir and readings from members of the congregation.
Christmas Eve
  • Online recorded Crib service video
  • Drop in between 3-5pm to visit the crib and add a prayer to the tree – this is the final “window” on our Advent window trial.
  • 9 pm -  Holy Communion in church (pre-booked tickets will be essential).  Booking will open next Sunday - Dec 6 - and the link will be here and on our church website. We can't sing carols, but we are hoping there will be an organist to provide some live, Christmassy music at this service. There will be no service at Midnight this year.
Christmas Day
  • 10 am Holy Communion with a story (pre-booked tickets will be essential). There will be recorded Christmas music at this service, but we won't be able to sing carols, sadly. Booking opens next Sunday, Dec 6. 
  • If the Christmas Day service becomes fully booked, it will be repeated at 11.15am and more tickets will be released for booking later in Advent.
  • A Video of the Christmas Eve 9pm service will be available to watch on Christmas Day, and there will be a special audio podcast which will include this year's Christmas story.
12 days of Christmas
  • Tune in for a daily Christmas story. Every year on Christmas Day I tell a Christmas story. This year, I am recording a selection of those I have told over the years I have been at Seal, and will be releasing one a day on each of the twelve days of Christmas. These will be available as an audio podcast from the church blog each night from Boxing Day to Jan 6 from 5pm - so you can snuggle down for a listen as the darkness draws in and bedtime approaches! 
And Finally...

Many congratulations to Barbara Arnold, who celebrates her 100th birthday this week on Dec 2. As anyone who knows Barbara will tell you, she is an extraordinary person, who has a wonderfully positive and determined attitude to life, and still has a very acute interest in all that is going on around her. If anyone who doesn’t have her address would like to send a card, please drop it off to me at the vicarage and I will deliver it, with our best wishes.

Sing Christmas Advent Reflections - Introduction



For most people Christmas wouldn’t be Christmas without its familiar music. Even Richard Dawkins is reputed to have a soft spot for Christmas carols. Some Christmas carols have become so familiar, though, that we have stopped noticing what they say. They become no more than background music, and the theological and spiritual ideas which they express are lost.

In our Advent series of thoughts, which starts on November 30th, we’ll take a carol a day and think about its words. There will be some questions and a Bible verse to ponder, and, if you can access the church blog, a Youtube clip of the carol to listen to. Check back here each day for a new carol and something to think about.

What is a Christmas Carol?

Carols were originally folk tunes designed for dancing. The word “carol” comes from French, Latin and Greek roots which all have to do with dancing. Carols weren’t necessarily associated with Christmas, and they weren’t written to be sung in church. They were the songs of the people, songs to be sung when they got together to celebrate informally. Christmas carols became popular first in the 15th Century, but were suppressed after the Reformation. The Puritans, who famously tried to ban Christmas celebrations, took a particularly dim view of them.  

In the 18th and 19th Centuries they began to enjoy new popularity. Catchy tunes and vivid imagery helped them to become the familiar element of Christmas that they now are. Some carols are simple retellings of the Christmas story, like The First Nowell, some are full of profound theology, like Hark, the Herald Angels Sing. Some are loud, even raucous, others gentle and meditative, but all have become popular because they somehow help us to enter into the story of the nativity and enjoy it anew.

The Carol Service in the form we know it now originated in 1880, when Edward Benson, then Bishop of Truro, decided to hold a service on Christmas Eve, allegedly to keep the men out of the pubs. Whether it met that aim is unknown!

Carol singing outdoors is a much older tradition, going back to the custom of “wassailing”, which is probably pre-Christian in origin. Bands of singers went from door to door at mid-winter asking for food and drink in return for a song. Gradually Christian carols were added to the secular wassail songs, but there has always been a sense in which this activity was semi-detached from the Church, and it remains popular among those who aren’t churchgoers.

However we sing our Christmas carols, they give us a chance to think about the story of the first Christmas and find its meaning in our own lives

·         What are your earliest memories of singing Christmas carols?

·         Are there any that you particularly love (or hate!)

Sunday, November 22, 2020

Sunday podcast worship links and other news...


Dear friends

The links to our worship this week, and other news and resources for reflection are below.
Best wishes
Revd Canon Anne Le Bas

Nov 22 Christ the King
Morning Worship podcast   Morning service sheet         Hymn words (both services)

Evensong podcast  Evensong service sheet

On Zoom this week  email for links

Zoffee - Sunday chat on Zoom  Nov 22, 2020 11:15 AM 

Wednesday Zoom Church 11 am. An informal service including Bible reading, prayer and a short talk.
Zoom Children’s Choir  Wed 5-5.30pm  Fun singing with Anne Le Bas
Zoom Adult choir  Wednesday 7.15 pm contact for the link.

Nov 22 Christ the King

Today is the feast of Christ the king, the last Sunday of the Church’s year. Today’s sermon explores what kind of leader Christ is, and what we can learn from him.
The feast of Christ the king was only instituted, by Pope Pius XI, in 1925, partly in response to growing secularism and nationalism in Europe. Above all the kingdoms of the world, he said, was the kingdom of God.
The imagery of Christ in majesty, Christ ruling, is far older though, like this manuscript illustration, dating from around 1220. It was natural for people to imagine Christ in much the same way as they saw their earthly rulers, sitting on a throne, wearing golden robes.

  • What do you think of images like these?
  • What does it mean to you to think of Christ as a king or ruler?

All Age ideas - looking forward to Advent
As well as the ideas in the video below, there are lots of ideas at this link for making an Advent ring, to help you count down to Christmas.
You could make an Advent Angel and hide it around the house each day during Advent for others in the house to find.

Advent is coming!
While we still don’t know whether and when we will be able to start meeting in church again for worship, Advent and Christmas are most definitely not cancelled. There will be plenty of ways to share in worship and reflection, as ever, whatever happens to the R rate!
Advent Sunday is next week, Nov 29, and activities to help us reflect during Advent will include a series of blog posts reflecting on Christmas carols, an Advent colouring sheet and Advent windows to find around the village. Look out for links on the church website and in this newsletter next Sunday. The video below may help you to think of other ways in which we can make this season special.t other styles.
Would you like us to pray for you?
Email your prayer requests to:
Your email will be read by Anne Le Bas and Kevin Bright, the Vicar and Reader of Seal Church who will hold you in their prayers. 
Let all the world in every corner sing.
1 Let all the world in ev'ry corner sing,
"My God and King!"
The heav'ns are not too high,
God's praise may thither fly;
the earth is not too low,
God's praises there may grow.
Let all the world in ev'ry corner sing,
"My God and King!"
2 Let all the world in ev'ry corner sing,
"My God and King!"
The church with psalms must shout:
no door can keep them out.
But, more than all, the heart
must bear the longest part.
Let all the world in ev'ery corner sing,
"My God and King!"
This lovely hymn, written by the Poet and Anglican clergyman, George Herbert (1593-1633)  is one of my personal favourites. Philip and I had it at our wedding! I love it’s inclusivity. Everyone is invited. Every part of life is included. ‘No door can keep them out.’
George Herbert was born in Wales, to a wealthy and artistic family. He became Cambridge University’s Public Orator , and came to the notice of King James I, and served briefly in Parliament in the 1620’s.After the death of King James, however, Herbert decided to revisit an early calling to be ordained, and spent the rest of his short life as the Rector of Bemerton. He was a devoted and much loved parish  priest, but was never physically strong and died of TB at the age of 39. He was a prolific and much admired poet, however, and his poems, some of which have been sung, like this one, as hymns are still deservedly popular.  His only prose work, A Priest to the Temple (usually known as The Country Parson )  is a guide for rural clergy. It’s picture of tireless devotion is something clergy ever since have found a struggle to live up to, however!
The tune that this hymn is sung to, Luckington, was written by Basil Harwood (1859-1949) was brought up in a Quaker family, but was drawn to the music and ceremony of the Church of England, and became a noted organist and choirmaster at St Barnabas, Pimlico, and editor of the 1908 Oxford Hymn Book. His tune is a perfect fit for Herbert’s words.
Prayer of the week

Stir up, O Lord, the wills of your faithful people
that they, plenteously bringing forth the fruit of good works,
may by you be plenteously rewarded;
through Jesus Christ our Lord.
This prayer – the collect, or special prayer for the last Sunday before Advent in the Book of Common Prayer is famous for its opening words. This Sunday is known as “Stir up” Sunday, and it is supposed to be the last day on which you should make Christmas puddings, if they are to mature in time for Christmas! Whether you make your own Christmas puddings or not, though, its sentiments are worth pondering. The prayer asks God to stir us up, so that we will be fruitful people – not bearing the fruit of raisins and sultanas, but of “good works”. It’s easy to become complacent, and shut our eyes and ears to the call of God to serve those around us.
  • What might God be stirring you up to do?

Check out the blog next weekend or follow us on social media to receive the Advent resources referred to in the video above and to find out where you can find the Advent Windows.  As far as possible they will also be made available in paper format to those who receive this newsletter by post.

The PCC met via Zoom last Thursday. Our main topics for discussion were the annual safeguarding update and financial planning for the future in a time when we, like many other churches and charities, are struggling because of Covid. We have been very grateful for those who have felt able to give more during this time, and we are making plans to make sure that we "cut our coat to suit our cloth" as we go forward. 
We also had the good news that our Tea Station project is going ahead, and should be installed during hte coming month or so. It's just a pity we can't serve refreshments from it at the moment!
And Finally...

I notice that Stonepitts Farm are now open for sales of Christmas Trees. I hope Martin Clews will be vigilant in distributing them so that there aren’t any unexpected “bonus items” in them when they are delivered, unlike the company which delivered the Rockerfeller Centre Christmas tree in New York. 

“Never mind the Christmas robin, one tiny owl was determined to have its moment in the festive spotlight when it was discovered as a stowaway among the branches of the world-famous Rockefeller Center tree in New York City.
The male saw-whet owl was found clinging to the 23 metre (75ft) Norwegian spruce on Monday after a three-day, 170 mile road trip to Manhattan.

Credit: Lindsay Possumato/Ravensbeard Wildlife Center via AP

The bird, now called - what else - 'Rockefeller', was dehydrated and hungry, but otherwise unharmed.
After x-rays to check for broken bones, the little (Rocke) fella was given fluids and "all the mice he could eat".
  Credit: AP
Ellen Kalish, director and founder of the Ravensbeard Wildlife Center in Saugerties, New York, where the bird was taken, said: "He was the little gift in the tree this year. I was thrilled that he was alert, and looking at me and not just a heap at the bottom of the box."
Ms Kalish says the plan is to release him back to the wild this weekend after he's rested up at the centre following his big adventure.”