Wednesday, December 26, 2012

Sunday, December 23, 2012

Christmas services

CHRISTMAS SERVICES at St Peter and St Paul, Seal
Sun 23rd TODAY - 6.30pm Carol Service

4pm Crib service - the Christmas story told simply as we make our crib and sing carols.
11.30pm Midnight Mass

10am Communion service for all the family, with a story instead of a sermon.


Everyone is welcome at everything, no matter how young or old you are, no matter whether you are a regular or have never come to church before. No one will mind what you wear or whether you know what you are doing! No one will hassle you to join anything, commit yourself to anything or sign up to anything. Whoever you are, whatever your life story or background you are welcome here!

Thursday, December 20, 2012

Visions of the Nativity 3

The third of our Advent Breathing Space series is here.
Visions of the Nativity 3:

Tonight we were pondering the well-peopled nativity scenes (often of the Adoration of the Magi),  like this one by Antonio Vivarini.

Friday, December 14, 2012

USPG changes its name to Us

USPG is an organisation which Seal Church has supported for many years (our special links are with Ruth and Saulo De Barros in Brazil, where Saulo is Bishop of the Diocese of the Amazon). This year it has changed its name. It now known simply as Us. The name may have changed, but the work is still the same, bringing hope and help to communities all round the world. Here is their latest video, about tea pickers in Sri Lanka. Why not sit down with a cup of tea (fairtrade I hope...?) and watch it.

Thursday, December 13, 2012

Visions of the Nativity 2

The second of our Advent Breathing Space Communion talks is here, on the theme of the "glow in the dark" baby, like this one, painted by Gerard Van Honthorst.

Monday, December 10, 2012

Harare - Good news

You may have read in previous posts of the situation the Anglican Church of Zimbabwe has been in for several years now. Throughout the country clergy and congregations have been unable to worship in their churches, which had been taken over by rival clergy and bishops sympathetic to  Robert Mugabe. A court case finally restored the churches to their rightful congregations and on Sunday Harare Cathedral is to be re-hallowed as part of this. Bishop Brian, the Bishop of Tonbridge, is to be there to represent Rochester Diocese as we are twinned with the Diocese of Harare.
A letter from Bishop James can be found here, and a prayer for the people of Zimbabwe written for this occasion is below.

Make your ways known upon earth, Lord God,
your saving power among all peoples.
We thank you for the life and witness of your Church in Harare
and pray with them this day as they celebrate the re-hallowing of their Cathedral.
Renew Bishop Chad and your Church there in holiness,
help them and us to serve you with joy.
Let not the needy be forgotten,
nor the hope of the poor be taken away.
Enable them and us to be instruments of your peace
and let your glory be over all the earth,
in the name of your Son, Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.

Friday, December 07, 2012

Rochester Cathedral Concert Tues 11th Dec

Rochester Cathedral have asked us to give a plug to their annual Christmas Concert next Tuesday at 7.30pm. Happy to do so - it will be a splendid evening I am sure!
They will be singing Handel's Messiah (Part 1) and other Christmas music as well as some carols for the audience to join in with as well.
Tickets are £12 or £8 (concessions) on the door.
More details can be found here.

Advent Breathing Space: Visions of the Nativity

The first of our Advent Breathing Space candlelit Communion services took place yesterday evening. In these three services I will be reflrecting on three different classic portrayals of the nativity story in art. The first service looked at the image of Jesus as a newborn lying naked on the ground (see the example right by Fra Angelico) while Mary and Joseph kneel in prayer, an image that can seem rather odd to us - who'd leave a baby lying about like that, cold and uncomfortable...?

If you would like to read the talk, it is here on our sermon blog (the next two talks will be posted after they are delivered.)

Thursday, November 29, 2012

Women bishops: how to move forward - an article by Savi Hensman

I normally try to be as even handed as I can be about contentious issues, since I do not want to assume that everyone in the congregation (let alone in the parish of Seal) holds the same views as each other, let along the same views as I do. However many people in the past week or so have wanted to talk about the recent vote in General Synod about women bishops, and it seemed to me that it would be helpful to post links here to any information which might help people to understand the background and be part of the ongoing discussion about this issue.
There is a very good article by Savi Hensman on the Ekklesia website which sets out both the issues that need to be addressed and how we came to be in the position we are now. If anyone wants to talk or to know more (I discovered, for example, that not everyone knew what "laity" meant - those in the church who are not ordained, the people in the pews, to put it simply) please feel free to get in touch.

Sunday, November 25, 2012

Women Bishops - this week's vote


I imagine most people will be aware that on Tuesday the legislation to ordain women as bishops failed to get the two-thirds majority in all three houses of the General Synod that it needed in order to become law. Although the Houses of Bishops and Clergy voted solidly in favour (93% and 74% respectively) , the vote in the House of Laity was six votes short  of a two-thirds majority, with the result that the legislation fell. The normal rule is that this issue would not now be able to be considered again until a new Synod is elected in 2015, though I understand that discussions are underway to see if there is some way in which the process could be speeded up in this case, since there has been such concern over whether the vote really represented the opinion of the vast majority of lay members of the Church of England. You will find a letter from Bishop James, with his thoughts on the matter here, and you can read a transcript of the debate in Parliament here.

There has been widespread public dismay at this vote among many people, both inside and outside the church, and I share that dismay. Speaking personally, as someone who has spent my entire ministry (almost 20 years) in the shadow of the arguments around the ordination of women, this latest setback has been a huge disappointment. It is quite exhausting to think of having to go around all this yet again, especially as it seems unlikely that there is some hitherto unthought-of solution acceptable to all sides just waiting to be discovered.

I am confident that eventually women will be allowed to become bishops - the clear votes of the Houses of Bishops and Clergy, as well as the fact that 42 out of 44 Dioceses voted unequivocally in favour of it earlier this year, make that obvious - and I look forward to that day. However, I am also very sad that we now face yet more delays to this happening. I personally know a number of women priests who probably would have been bishops by now if they had been male and it is a tragedy for the Church that we have not had the benefit and the blessing of their leadership. In some cases we will now never do so as they are approaching retirement.  I am also involved in the selection procedures for those who seek ordination.  I have seen some extremely gifted, holy and inspiring female candidates for ministry over the years, and I am keenly aware that they are offering themselves to a Church which, at the moment, looks as if it is still not sure if it really wants them.

The continued exclusion of women from the episcopate has been greeted with shock and some ridicule by many non-churchgoers. The responses from Parliament and in the media are clear evidence of this, and it is something which should concern us greatly. While we are not called simply to ape the views of our culture, and sometimes should challenge those views even if we are criticised for it, it does not follow that simply because we are different we are therefore right. The Gospels remind us that Jesus consistently recognised and drew attention to the wisdom spoken by those outside the religious establishment of his day - foreigners, women, children, disabled people, even tax-collectors and others regarded as sinful. These were often the ones who spoke the truth the religious "insiders" needed to hear, and Jesus acclaimed them for it. We need to be just as open to hearing God's voice in those outside the church in our time: otherwise we may miss what he has to say to us through them today. There are advantages and disadvantages to being the Established Church, but I rejoice at the fact that it reminds us that we are not called to live in a bubble, but to be woven into our communities, paying attention to everyone's views. 

It is important to note that it was the votes in the House of Laity which brought down this legislation, and concerns have been expressed that this body did not accurately reflect the views of the congregations it is supposed to represent. The House of Laity is elected by the Deanery Synod members in each parish, who are themselves elected at the Annual Parochial Church Meeting, at which everyone on the Church Electoral Roll has a vote. I know that our Deanery Synod members took their roles very seriously, and that many members of our congregation want very much to see women bishops in the Church of England. However, this week’s vote really highlights the importance of the voice that is given to everyone in our churches - your opinion counts, so please make it known!

If you would like to know more about the debates on women's ministry, whatever your feelings about it, the websites below may help. The first, Watch, is the website of an organisation which has been campaigning for the ordination of women and their full acceptance in the church for many years. It will be much in need of support over the coming months, so if you feel moved, please help them out! I have also included a link to the form you need to fill in to become a member if you would like to do so.

Watch (Women and the Church)
MoreWatch material on their old site

Thinking Anglicans often carries good summaries of a variety of issues in the Church of England, and links to articles in the press etc. 
A very good website, run by a lay Anglican, as the name suggests, which has all sorts of information about the church, and some very good discussion of this week's vote on its blog.

The two sites below are organisations which oppose the ordination of women as priests and as bishops. I include them in the interests of balance and for information. You will have your own opinions, but obviously I do not agree with their views on the subject!    

I will try to keep you informed of further developments, but please ask if you want to know anything more and feel free to get in contact if you have something you'd like to say.
Revd Anne Le Bas

Tuesday, November 20, 2012

Good News from Harare

The Bishop of Tonbridge has sent this letter this morning, with good news from Harare. See the posts below for more details of the struggle our sisters and brothers in the Anglican Church in Nigeria have been going through.

 19 November 2012
Dear Brothers and Sisters,
Diocese of Harare
I am writing on behalf of Bishop James (currently attending General Synod) and myself to
inform you of the final judgement of the Zimbabwe Supreme Court regarding the
ownership of the property.
You will know that Nolbert Kunonga, a former Bishop of Harare who broke away from the
Church of the Province of Central Africa in 2007, has laid claim to the Anglican Church’s
property and, with the aid of the State Police, has forced Anglicans out of their churches
and clergy out of their homes. This morning the Supreme Court has ordered Kunonga to
return all the property he has seized to Bishop Chad and the legitimate diocese of Harare.
The sounds of joy and celebration coming from Bishop Chad and the diocese are so great
that we can almost hear them from here. ‘We have been in exile for five years but now we
are going home,’ said Bishop Chad. In a letter (to be found on the Rochester Diocesan
Website) to members of his diocese and to friends ‘both near and far’ Bishop Chad writes:
Glory to God for the prayer and moral support from Christians of all denominations across
the world! I am elated about the outcome of the Supreme Court hearing. My sisters and
brothers in Christ, this is your victory! This is your hour! Give all the glory to our Almighty
Father in heaven. I want to immediately call upon all our people to be gracious in winning
the legal battle. Now let the work begin!
Later in his letter, he reminds his readers that the rebuilding will not be easy. There will,
indeed, be many challenges. But he finishes his letter in this way:
Come let us work together, let us rise and build! Renovate! Paint! Let us do it all to God’s
glory. God bless you all.
We thank God for this outcome. Many thanks to you all for the prayers and support you
have given in so many ways – please ensure that this message is passed to your
With best wishes
Yours in Christ,

the Rt Revd Brian Castle, Bishop of Tonbridge

Tuesday, November 06, 2012

The Visit

Rob Gillion's One Man Show

Jesus visits a church with unexpected, moving and challenging results

Based on a short story by Adrian Plass.

The Rev. Rob Gillion is a highly organised and efficient vicar of his church St. Thomas the Doubter... until one day an unexpected visit from the Boss's Son turns his world upside down. His anxiety escalates as Christmas fast approaches. Will he manage to hide it from the man who knows everything?

A humorous yet poignant take on the meaning of Christmas!

All performances are in aid of Barnabas Children's Ministry.

When & where

  • Friday 23 November and Saturday 24 November at Wesley Memorial Church, Oxford
  • Friday 30 November and Saturday 1 December at Holy Trinity, Sloane Square, London

Find out more & book

Sunday, October 28, 2012

Good news for Zimbabwe's Anglicans

Following on from the post below, here is an update from "Thinking Anglicans" website.


Good news for Zimbabwe Anglicans

USPG reports Zimbabwe court has good news for Anglicans.
Anglicans in Zimbabwe are celebrating a favourable court ruling that will give back the legal ownership of church properties.
Ex-communicated bishop Dr Nolbert Kunonga and his colleagues have taken control of Anglican properties in the Dioceses of Harare and Manicaland, forcing Anglican congregations to worship in the open air or in borrowed or rented buildings.
But, today, Zimbabwe’s Supreme Court ruled that properties in Manicaland should be returned to the Anglican Church. And a decision on Harare will be made in three months…
And Bishop Chad Gandiya sent the following message:
Warm greetings from very hot Harare! I want to thank you all very much for your prayers.
Our Supreme Court hearing took place this morning (from 9.30am to close to 13pm), and finished all the matters.
Most of the Kunonga appeals including that of Manicaland [claims on Anglican property in the Diocese of Manicaland], were thrown out. So, for Manicaland, we go back to Justice Bhunu’s judgement, which was in our favour (congratulations to Bishop Julius Makoni of Manicaland!).
The Harare matter was heard and the judges reserved judgement. They will notify us in due course (within three months I am told).
I am very pleased that it’s over so quickly. It went very well and we are happy the way it went.
This does not mean for you stop praying. Please continue to pray as the judges write down their judgement.
The end is in sight now. Praise God!’

Friday, October 19, 2012

Please pray for the Diocese of Harare

The Bishops of Rochester and Tonbridge have sent a letter to all parishes asking us to pray for the Diocese of Harare in Zimbabwe, with which our Diocese has special links, and for its Bishop, Chad. I have pasted the text of the letter below, along with a special prayer for Zimbabwe written by Derek Carpenter.

Dear Brother and Sisters,

Diocese of Harare

You will know that Bishop Chad and our Link Diocese of Harare have been facing fierce harassment from former bishop Nolbert Kunonga, supported by state police. Over the last six years, Anglicans in Harare have been expelled from their churches (sometimes violently), clergy have been forced from their homes,church schools have been taken over and a diocesan orphanage has been wrenched from the care of the Church. It has been both remarkable and inspiring to witness the ways in which the Anglican Church in Harare has grown and developed. Despite the difficulties being faced by our brothers and sisters, numbers have increased and faith has grown.

In the background, there have been legal disputes as to who is the rightful Bishop of Harare and therefore under whose care and stewardship do the goods of the diocese (including priests’ houses, diocesan office,schools, churches and orphanage) actually fall: is it Bishop Chad and the diocese of Harare or Nolbert Kunonga? For the sake of those, both living and departed, whose generosity has built up the diocese, this question needs to be settled. After many delays, a date has been agreed for the hearing of this case in the Supreme Court of Zimbabwe.
In a recent email from Harare, Bishop Chad writes:
"We have now been informed that the Supreme Court hearing will take place from the 22nd October 2012 and will last that week. We are appealing for any assistance towards covering our legal bills. Most importantly we are asking you all to join us in a week of prayer and fasting during the hearing period starting on the 22nd October. We want to thank you all for journeying with us during this difficult period in the history of our church.
Thank you.

We are asking that Rochester Diocese responds to Bishop Chad’s call for prayer and fasting during that week. We hope that those churches with particular links with Harare will set up a chain of prayer, writing to their Harare partners assuring them of their support. We also hope that all churches will hold Harare in their prayers on Sunday 21st October. A prayer has been written for this week by Canon Derek Carpenter and is available below.

With our prayers and best wishes

Yours in Christ,

+James & +Brian

God of mercy and grace, of healing and reconciliation,
you stand alongside those who are secure and those who are struggling,
with those who have plenty and those who have nothing,
with those who journey confidently and with those who are oppressed;

We thank you for the faith, commitment and courage of our brothers and sisters in Harare;
enable them to meet their challenges with courage,
their hardships with hope,
and their despair with renewed faith.

Grant wisdom and insight to those whose decisions affect the lives of your people in Zimbabwe,
right to prevail where there is injustice,
goodness to triumph over evil,
and peace to flourish where there is bitterness and hostility

We ask this in the name of Him who in suffering proclaimed forgiveness,
and whose death led to resurrection,
Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.

Monday, October 15, 2012

Malted Light concert CANCELLED

I have just had an email from the organisers of the Malted Light concert due to take place this Thursday (18th Oct) to say that unfortunately it has had to be cancelled owing to unforeseen circumstances.
I am very sorry about this, as I know that quite a few people were hoping to come.
I will try my best to get the word around, but it would be a great help if you could let others know who might have been thinking of coming, so that we don't have people turning out on Thursday for it.

Friday, September 28, 2012

Seal School Harvest


The School are collecting non-perishable goods for the "Loaves 'n Fishes" foodbank in Sevenoaks. If you would like to donate, please bring along any of the following to the school service:
Breakfast cereal, rice and pasta, oat cakes or crackers,  tinned vegetables, tinned fruit, tinned ham, tinned mince or stew, tinned soup, cup-a-soup,  tinned custard, uht milk, tea bags, coffee, sugar, toothpaste and tooth brushes.

Wednesday, September 19, 2012

Messy Church Sept 30th 4 -5.30

Messy Church in preparation for Harvest takes place on Sept 30th from 4-5.30pm in the church hall. We will be making all sorts of things on the theme of "Things bigger than us: things smaller than us" based on Psalm 8, in which the writer looks up into the night sky at the sheer enormity of  the universe, and is mind-blown at the thought that the God who made all that made humans too. Not only that, God gave them power over so many of the creatures around him.
That's just as relevant a thought for us today as it was then - we can see the impact we have on the natural world, and it is good to remind ourselves that we need to take our power seriously and use it wisely.

Anyway  - expect crafts which take us into outer space and also focus on the natural world around us. Everyone is welcome to Messy Church. After about an hour of crafts and activities, we will have a short time of worship and then tea.

HARVEST FESTIVAL takes place the following weekend.
There will be a Hog Roast and Quiz at Seal School on Saturday Oct 6 from 6 pm. Tickets are £10 for adults. £5 for children and £25 for a family ticket.

Our Harvest festival communion will take place on Sunday Oct 7 at 10 am, with a special collection for the Rochester Diocese "Poverty and Hope" appeal. 

Monday, July 16, 2012

Messy Church July 12

We had a great, summery, fun Messy Church yesterday. I quite expected we would be thin on the ground - silly me! We were cram packed with families sticking things to other things - and the sun even shone too!

We were particularly thinking of things that we might like to do over the summer (whatever the weather) so we made shoebox sea scenes (see my prototype below - those made at Messy Church were all coloured in, of course). The green glow is simply made by cutting a window out of the back of the shoebox and sticking a sheet of green tissue paper over it.

 O LORD, what a variety of things you have made!
    In wisdom you have made them all.
    The earth is full of your creatures.
Here is the ocean, vast and wide,
    teeming with life of every kind,
    both large and small.
 See the ships sailing along,
    and Leviathan, which you made to play in the sea. (Psalm 104 New Living Translation)

We also made sun pictures, and some very messy, hand painted giant suns to go in church... Perhaps that will encourage the real one to show its face a bit more..

We played some parachute games, and since the weather was in a rare, kind mood, we had our closing worship outside - talking about our hopes for the summer and praying that we would have a happy time, whether it rained or not.

Possibly prayer should always be done lying down...

Then, of course, there was cake... the vital last stage of every Messy Church. Many thanks to all who helped and to all who came.

Wednesday, July 11, 2012

Messy Church this Sunday (July 15)

There will be a Messy Church session in the church hall this Sunday afternoon from 4 -5.30 pm.
Crafts, games, worship and tea, for all ages.

We're taking a Summer theme for our session this time, so let's hope the weather takes the hint...

All are welcome.

Tuesday, June 05, 2012

Diamond Jubilee Big Lunch

Diamond Jubilation!
It may have been a bit drizzly, but that didn't stop lots of  people turning out for our Diamond Jubilee Big Lunch. The children didn't care a bit if they got damp bouncing on the bouncy castles, there was plenty of food and drink, and plenty of people to share it, so a good time was had by all. I spent four hours on the floor of the pavilion making corgis and spinners with the seemingly numberless small children who turned up, aided by Barbara Martin, my long-suffering husband Philip and even my poor mother, who had come up for the weekend for a family celebration of her own birthday on Monday and found herself pressed into service... It is a risky thing being a member of a priest's family...

Many thanks should go to those who laboured to bring this village celebration about - Nicky Harvey and Marion Gilchrist in particular worked long and hard to bring it together, and many others helped on the day to put marquees up, stock and serve beer, tea and coffee etc.
Many people commented on the lovely atmosphere, and there were quite a few who had never been to anything in Seal before, and were bowled over by the warmth of welcome and the fun of the day.

Photos below are from Nicky Harvey and Jill and Katy Myers - if anyone has any more they'd like to share, please send them along!

The bouncy castles were swarming with children all afternoon

Well done to our team of face painters! Very good work, girls!

Patriotic foodstuffs were in abundance

"Bring and share" always results in a mountain of food!

 People just couldn't resist the urge to dress up...

Craft activities - things being glued to other things (and people).

Union flag spinners made out of paper plates...

Corgis - it's amazing what you can make with an old Actimel bottle, a few bits of cardboard and a bit of ingenuity...