Monday, April 27, 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. 
Dear Friends
Christ in the Stranger’s Guise

If you listened to our 
Sunday morning podcast this week, you’ll know that it focussed on the story of Jesus meeting two disciples as they walked wearily back to their home town of Emmaus, seven miles from Jerusalem on the day of the resurrection. The sermon I preached on it is here.  I explored it further on the blog, and suggested some all age activities to explore it too. 

One of the most famous depictions of it here, by Caravaggio. In happier times you can see it in the National Gallery in London. There’s a great discussion of it in the video below.
It’s a story which has been explored and referenced often in poetry, prayer and song. A modern hymn which I very much like was written by Graham Maule and John L.Bell, from the Iona Community, set to the tune of “The Leaving of Liverpool” it reminds us that Christ comes to us “in the stranger’s guise”. We might encounter Christ in anyone we meet, if we have our eyes open to see him.
The words are here, so you can sing it for yourself if you know the tune, or there is an arrangement of it, below, which you might like to listen to.

1. From heaven to here and from here to heaven
Is a distance less than tissue thin,
And it's trod by him who, in the stranger's guise,
Is made known when he is welcomed in.

So come, Lord Christ in the stranger’s guise
Known both through scriptures and through broken bread
Your kingdom come and on the earth your will be done
By the people you’ve loved and you’ve led.

2. The folk who journey on the road with Christ
Are the ones who've left their selves behind.
Their song is taught them by the deaf and dumb;
Their horizon is shown by the blind.

3. The love that's shared along the royal road
Is a love not found when standing still.
It lives and grows wherever faith is known
As a movement grounded in God's will.

4. From heaven to here and from here to heaven
Is a distance less than tissue thin.
And it's trod by those who meet the risen Christ
As a stranger to be welcomed in.
Christ in the Stranger's Guise. Words Graham Maule and John L. Bell

Prayer of the week

The hymn draws also on a poem from the Celtic tradition (which I turned into an embroidery that hangs in the vicarage hallway)

I met a stranger yestere'en
I put food in the eating place,
drink in the drinking place,
music in the listening place.
And in the sacred name of the Triune
he blessed myself and my house
my cattle and my dear ones
And the lark sang in her song
Often, often, often
comes Christ in the stranger's guise.
What are people up to at the moment?
It seems like many people have been enjoying the spring weather over the last week or so, getting out in the garden, or maybe discovering a bluebell wood if they can venture further. The picture on the right was taken on Seal Chart, just off the road from Seal to  Stone Street.

It’s set to rain this week, apparently, but I know that Martin Clews needs the rain for Stonepitts strawberries and raspberries, so we won’t begrudge him it!

Nonetheless, spring has definitely sprung. Whether you can get out for a walk,  have a garden or just a view from a window, there’s plenty going on in the natural world.
Hilary Curtis seems to be running a mini wildlife reserve at her home, and is giving regular updates on Facebook on the nest cam pictures of the blue tit in her nest box.

She’s also got not one but two hedgehogs visiting her. I have never seen a hedgehog at the vicarage, despite having log piles, leaf piles etc. Rabbits, which eat my plants, foxes, which eat the rabbits, but never a hedgehog, which might eat a few of the slugs and snails which are currently munching through anything they fancy. I have just watered the veg patch with nematodes, which usually works to knock out some of the slugs for a while, and I tried Slug Gone wool pellets around plants last year, which seemed to help, but a hedgehog would be better.

During our Sunday morning "Zoffee" chats (Zoom chats with coffee – bring your own coffee!), Ana Durling told us about the nature project she’d been doing about growing things and suggested egg shells and coffee grounds to put slugs off. I know the Durlings do a lot of gardening (and have chickens – Ana brought one to the Zoom session to show us) so I am sure they know a thing or two about what might work! (Esme has been busy too, and let us see her wonderful WW2 diorama.)

If you’d like some pointers on making the most of the natural world available to you, here are some links you might like to check out.
The Woodland Trust have an 
A-Z of British trees, to help you identify that tree you can see from the window. They have some good resources for families too (or anyone else who'd like some "hands on" activities.)

They also have a live 
“osprey-cam”, which is filming, in real time, the activity in the nest of a pair of resident ospreys, Louis and Aila, from the heart of an ancient Caledonian pine forest. While I’m sure Hilary would love to have ospreys in her back garden, I think she might find it a bit more of an inconvenience than blue tits!

British Trust for Ornithology are offering free membership at the moment, and various projects like their Gardenwatch bird recording project.

The RSPB have a 
bird song identification page  as well as lots of ideas for engaging with nature on our own doorsteps.
If you can’t hear the birds singing where you are (though they are making a pretty deafening racket in Seal, especially early in the morning, to my mind!) then you can listen via the RSPB birdsong app or 
webpage here.
As I compiled all this, I found I had a hymn running through my head, from my childhood. It will probably date me to share it) which I recall singing at school – “All Things which live below the sky”.
You’d have to be a certain vintage to know it, but I’ve always preferred it to the much better known “All Things Bright and Beautiful”. I discovered, as I tried googling it, that it seems everyone else was singing it to a different tune to the one I recall. I could only find it set to “Rodmell”, when I am quite sure we sang it to “Jackson” at my school. Am I the only one…? The words are below, and a youtube recording I found beneath it. The words were written by Edward John Brailsford (1841 -1921) a Wesleyan Methodist minister. As well as its description of the natural world, I love its message that “Beneath his heaven there’s room for all” and the prayer to God to “make me a friend of helpless things/ defender of the weak,” words which are needed as much now as ever. Why has "All things bright and beautiful" survived, while this song seems to have sunk into obscurity?

1 All things which live below the sky,
Or move within the sea,
Are creatures of the Lord most High,
And brothers unto me.
2 I love to hear the robin sing,
Perched on the highest bough;
To see the rook with purple wing,
Follow the shining plough.

3 I love to watch the swallow skim
The river in his flight;
To mark, when day is growing dim,
The glowworm's sil'v'ry light.

4 The seagull whiter than the foam,
The fish that dart beneath;
The lowing cattle coming home;
The goats upon the heath.

5 God taught the wren to build her nest,
The lark to soar above,
The hen to gather to her breast
The offspring of her love.

6 Beneath his heaven there's room for all;
He gives to all their meat;
He sees the meanest sparrow fall
Unnoticed in the street.

7 All-loving Father, King of kings,
The helper of the weak,
Make me a friend of helpless things,
Defender of the weak.
This is the tune everyone else seems to have sung it to!
This is the tune I am sure I sang it to as a child ! 
I know there are a lot of jigsaws being made around the parish – Philip is now on his second, though I think the vast expanse of trees in it are getting him down! Some of you will know that I have discovered a wonderful website where you can make your own online jigsaw puzzles, which is quite addictive…I made another one (just 70 pieces) last week, of a very familiar sight. You can find it here.

I know that many of you can hear the church clock chiming through the day and night. Here’s a poem I wrote about it recently. (Hint – count the words below each chime…)

For those who hear the church clock chime
A poem for lockdown

The church is locked,
but on a routine visit
 - I’m the only one allowed inside the building now,
and only then to check for fallen plaster -
I find
all is well,

and more,
the ancient stones still sigh out prayers
laid down by centuries of worshippers,
and angels dance,
“Go in peace.
He is not here, closed in these stones.
Wherever you are, you will find him.”

Later, lying in my bed
I hear the church clock chiming
tolling out its news;

Fear not.
Christ is risen.
Light shines in darkness.
Darkness has not o’ercome it.
Be strong and of good courage.
Faith, hope and love abide, these three.
I shall not leave you or forsake you.
Love one another, just as I have loved you.
Where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is freedom.
You have served me in the least of these my children.
Lo, I am with you always, even to the end of time.

Anne Le Bas Easter Monday 2020

Here are the references to the Bible passages which each chime ring in the poem One. John 20.19/  Two. Matthew 28.5 / Three. Luke 24.5 / Four John 1. 5/ Five. John 1.5 / Six. Joshua 1.9 /  Seven. 1 Corinthians 13. 13/ Eight. Hebrews 13.5/ Nine. John 15.12/ Ten. 2 Corinthians 3.17/ Eleven/ Matthew 25.40/ Twelve. Matthew 28.20

And finally...

If you think the wildlife in your garden needs an extra challenge… here’s inspiration from a man in Hitchin, Steve Barley, who has created an NHS themed squirrel assault course in his garden. To be fair, he has form for this, and has created all sorts of other courses over the years, but this one seemed very timely. The squirrels, of course, had no trouble at all fathoming it out!

Steve's pun-laden video. Enjoy!

Anne Le Bas

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