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
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