Fellowship of St Birinus

Firstly I would like to thank Steve and our Churchwardens for nominating me for this Award, and to the all those who travelled to Dorchester for the service.

On Sunday 24thSeptember , a service of Evensong was held in Dorchester Abbey for the Fellowship of St.Birinus, when I was made a Fellow and presented with the award by the Bishop of Dorchester, the Rt Reverend Colin Fletcher.

The citation states:
‘The Fellowship of St Birinus. To our beloved in Christ We welcome you into the Fellowship of St Birinus Joy Blake With thanksgiving for your service to God and the Parish of All Saints’ Faringdon in recognition of your faithful service as Organist and Choirmaster and for your love and service in all that you do’.

The service of Evensong was a wonderful occasion with the Abbey full, with about four hundred persons, including new Fellows, previous recipients and their supporters.

The service consisted of hymns:
Hymns – ‘Praise to the Lord’ and ‘Father hear the prayer’;
Psalm 145 v1-8 sung by the Abbey choir;
Canticles – Magnificat and Nunc Dimittis,
Anthem – Rutter’s ‘I will sing with the spirit’.

A brief address was given by the Bishop after the presentations of the Awards.

For me the whole service was brought together by the singing of the last hymn ‘Sing of the Lord’s goodness’ – He has been good to me, and the last verse ‘Praise him with your singing, praise him with the trumpet’ – our Church Choir and the Organ at All Saints’.

With many thanks.


We believe in Catholicity of the Church (Exploring the Nicene Creed)

In this article we shall think about the Catholicity of the Church, a term that requires careful analysis, for it is often misunderstood; and “catholic” is understood differently by several Christian denominations.

The basic meaning of ‘catholic’ is simply universal or world-wide, or wholeness. It is not a biblical expression and was introduced in the very early Christian centuries as the Church grew and developed. As explained in earlier articles the Nicene Creed was formed to clarify the Church’s true and essential beliefs about God and his Christ at a time of serious debate and disagreement. Hence the use of ‘catholic’ in the Creed was to stress the received New Testament Faith the true Faith – the whole Faith as established from the beginning, and universally held across all local churches by practically all Christian leaders and people. So when in various places disputes and disagreements over some elements of that Faith occurred, Church leaders appealed to the Catholic Faith” to settle controversies. They looked to the beliefs and teachings that from the first days were held in common; the Faith entrusted to the Apostles and enshrined in Holy Scripture (Jude verse 3).  Our Anglican formularies refer to the catholic creeds because these were clearly defined statements of Faith held from the very first days, drawn up by Christian leaders from all worldwide local churches (i.e. truly Ecumenical Councils); thus representing all the People of God. I will now quote part of an official statement of how we who are Anglicans understand our Church.

“The Church of England is part of the One, Holy, Catholic and Apostolic Church, worshipping the one true God, Father, Son and Holy Spirit. It professes the faith uniquely revealed in the Holy Scriptures and set forth in the catholic creeds, which faith the Church is called upon to proclaim afresh in each generation”. Hence we Anglicans affirm our real, true and full belonging to the world-wide Church of Christ, and that we are catholic. We acknowledge of course that there are other Churches also truly and fully part of this large international Christian Family but do not specify them.

As Anglicans we have always claimed and will continue to assert our genuine legitimate authenticity; our full rightful place in the universal Church of God. We affirm strongly the absolute validity of our Ministry of Bishops, Priests and Deacons, our Gospel Sacraments with the God-given graces of sanctification, our fullness of saving truth, and the right to teach with authority the Faith revealed in Holy Scripture. Our basis is Ephesians 4:3 “There is one Lord, one faith, one Baptism, one God and Father of us all”. And as I wrote in a previous article, “the Church is apostolic”, and we as Anglicans are also most certainly apostolic.

We should also note that the large (Eastern) “Orthodox Churches” equally claim to be authentic Churches of Christ; indeed fully true, without any variation from the original teachings of Christ, and the way he meant his Church to develop and grow. Hence these strongly traditional Churches consistently use the meaningful title Orthodox.

Furthermore, other Christian Churches also rightly claim to be truly part of the One Church of God, having strong New Testament faith, full baptismal and sacramental life, ministry and teaching, witness and service.

The very large Roman Catholic Church however actually claims uniquely to be The Catholic Church, asserting that it alone has complete sacramental fullness, truth and teaching authority with its ministry and appointed head. Some consider it has given the term catholic an emphasis beyond that of its initial meaning and usage. From the Reformation period onwards the Roman Catholic Church has shown an exclusivist attitude towards the reforming Churches (Lutheran, Presbyterian, Anglican etc), regarding them as partial or deficient Churches. However, since the huge changes made by the Roman Catholic Second Vatican Council of the 1960s, the essential baptismal and Christian foundation of all these Churches has been fully acknowledged.

Praise God, in these better ecumenical times, despite still some differing understandings of some aspects of our Faith, most Churches do work together in a host of good ways, often worshipping together also. In Faringdon there is real closeness now between all Churches, with common projects like the Mustard Seed, the Family Centre, Summer Holiday Clubs, Clergy Fraternals, etc; regular times too of joint worship, prayer and study.

Our earnest hope and prayer must be that this will grow and flourish until we are all truly and wholly visibly one as Jesus longed and prayed, according to his will, and in his good time, and for all his people everywhere (John 17:19-23). Steady progress is being made, especially between Anglicans and Methodists; or with United Churches (as in Faringdon), and some other Churches. We pray that it will continue embracing all the Churches of Christ.

Although in popular parlance many folk do refer to the Roman Catholic Church as “The Catholic Church” (and certainly Roman Catholics almost invariably do so), many Anglicans will always use the full title. Formal Anglican documents, and all official discussions with the Roman Catholic Church always do. This is not to make for argument or point scoring but to say again that we as Anglicans are also catholic! If we are not, there is no point in reciting that part of the Creed with its strong affirmation on ‘catholicity’.

The Anglican Communion and its Churches have of course many differing emphases, usually called ‘churchmanship’; evangelical, Anglo-catholic, modernist, radical, liberal, etc. All these make for a rich diversity almost unique amongst the Churches of the Christian world. And this surely is a sign of strength, for our real unity in essential truths with wide harmonious diversity, is also part of what ‘catholic’ ought to mean. Unity in essential truths of faith does not mean or require absolute uniformity of worship, theological emphases, local practice or organization.

“In all essentials unity, in unessentials freedom and diversity, and in all things love” was a slogan frequently used in the Church’s early and later centuries. It should be our slogan and aim too as we seek to follow our One Lord and help build his Catholic Church. And above all we must remember that ‘catholic, world-wide or universal’ also means embracing all nations; all races, colours, social groups, ages, abilities, gender and sexuality. No one is excluded from the universal Gospel of Christ and the universal Christian Family. (Galatians 3:27-28).

Praise and glory be to our common Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ. Amen.

George Abell

Father, Forgive

When I was Bursar of an Almshouse in Bath, we had a wonderful cross-section of ladies as residents: we had missionaries, nurses, teachers, air hostesses, cooks, secretaries etc. One lady had been a leader of a Julian Community and she, Margaret Howard, was the daughter of a Provost of Coventry Cathedral who, almost 77 years ago, on the night of the14th November 1940, had stood with the cathedral stone-mason, Jock Forbes, and two others, on fire-guard on the roof of the cathedral. That was the night, the city suffered the longest air raid of the second world war.

The four of them were able to cope with the incendiaries dropped during the first three waves of bombers, but the waves after that were too much for them, fires started in inaccessible places within the complex roof structure, the fire brigade couldn’t get there for a long time and when they did, they were only able to operate for a short while before the water supply failed. The four men managed to save some of the cathedral treasures, but then they could only stand and watch as the fire raged throughout the building and their much loved cathedral burned to the ground.

In the cold grey light of the following morning the people of Coventry emerged from their shelters to find 600 people killed, even more injured, hundreds of homes had been destroyed, many roads were blocked and at the centre of it all, their mediaeval cathedral was a burnt-out shell. The people of Coventry were shocked, stunned, scared, and bitter.

How do you think you would have reacted if you had been there that morning?

“You wait, you filthy krauts, we’ll get you for this!”

That would have been a very understandable reaction – wouldn’t it? And no doubt there were plenty of people who reacted just like that – in those circumstances, the instinctive human reaction would be a desire for revenge on an enemy who had done such things.

But in Coventry they overcame that desire. The Provost got Jock Forbes to build an altar on the site where the high altar had been – an altar made of stones dug out from the rubble, and, they set up behind it a great cross made of charred roof timbers found among the ruins. On the altar was another cross made of three large, sharp, 14th century nails bound with wire that had all been picked up from the ashes on that first morning. They chromium plated the cross of nails, and had the words “Father, forgive”, carved on the wall behind the sanctuary. The contrast between the black charred cross and the silvered cross of nails starkly symbolises life out of death, and the words on the wall preach the gospel  of divine forgiveness far more effectively than any human voice could do.

“Father, forgive.” … It must have taken a fair bit of courage to write those words. Mustn’t it? It can’t have been easy when there was an overwhelming feeling of hatred and bitterness towards the Germans that was backed by the government’s propaganda efforts to make the enemy an object of hatred. It isn’t easy, at the best of times, to forgive those who have done us wrong – Is it? Yet it is at the heart of the Gospel. It was about forgiveness that Jesus came into the world on the first Christmas day – about forgiveness that he was raised from the dead on the first Easter Day. And it is forgiveness that lies at the heart of the Lord’s Prayer, “Forgive us our trespasses, as we forgive them that trespass against us.” I have always thought that word “AS” in that phrase is too weak, because the meaning is clearly, ‘Forgive us our trespasses only if we forgive them that trespass against us’.

On Christmas Day 1940, just six weeks after the bombing, Coventry Cathedral was selected to start the Empire broadcast. The Provost ended his introduction with these words, “What we want to tell the world is this: that with Christ born again in our hearts today, we are trying, hard as it may be, to banish all thoughts of revenge; we are bracing ourselves to finish the tremendous job of saving the world from tyranny and cruelty; we are going to try to make a kinder, simpler – a more Christ-Child-like sort of world in the days beyond this strife.”

We still have a long way to go, haven’t we?

We have to try to forgive others….No, that’s wrong, we have actually to forgive others. We have to forgive because that takes the danger and tension out of the situation and draws the forgiver and forgiven into closer relationship with each other and with God. That’s the thing that brings peace. Think what would happen if Catholic and Protestant, Jew and Arab, Christian and Muslim, could do that.

Those words carved into the wall at Coventry weren’t, “Father forgive THEM.” They weren’t a quotation from Jesus’s words on the cross. No. Simply, “Father, forgive.” Forgive US, as well as those who destroyed Coventry.  In those words, “Father, forgive,” they were and we are laying before God not only the guilt of others, praying for their release from the slavery of sin, but all our own guilt as well  – Our selfishness, greed, callousness, our indifference, our anger, our lust – all those many contributions which as individuals and as a society we make to the total of human sin. We’re throwing our own sins into the poisonous pot, and we’re asking God to purify and clean it. We’re all in need of God’s forgiveness, we all want a clean slate. In those words we’re praying for ourselves. But we’re also, without being judgemental, praying for others who have done wrong. We’re joining with God, sharing with him in his purifying power, uniting ourselves in his life.

This month 77 years after that terrible air raid in Coventry, we will meet on Remembrance Sunday in this peaceful Church and town. We remember the dead of two world wars and too many smaller wars in which our armed forces have been and are engaged – all fought for “freedom and righteousness.” Today some of us remember relatives, loved ones and friends whose lives were cut short or damaged by war: for those people, this is a day that stirs up many emotions and memories. All of us remember only too well the horrifying pictures brought into our homes by newspaper and TV, of warfare in so many areas of the world including terrorist actions in our own country. Certainly we will not be glorifying war. We know too much of its horrors for that. We’re being asked to remember the fallen and the horrors of war – it is not forgive and forget – we must remember man’s capability for destruction, but when we pray, “Father, forgive,” we confess our sinfulness, and ask God to help us change the way we live, to give us the strength to forgive. If we can mean what we say, we will affect the quality of our lives and the lives of those around us.

Max Young

I know that smell ….

On the first Sunday of this month, even if we were blindfolded and led into All Saints’, we would be able to say immediately what the name of the Sunday was – because we’d be able to smell the scent of the apples, pears fruit and vegetables perched on the windowsills and ledges around the church. On opening our eyes we’d see beautiful arrangements of flowers and produce from people’s gardens and allotments, and wheat sheaves, both natural and made of bread, with maybe even the heads of some of Lord Berner’s pink mice peeking out of the wheat stalks.

What are we doing when once a year we beautify our Church building with flowers and fruit and vegetables? I’d say that we’re putting into action those words of David found in 1 Chronicles 29:11, the words we sometimes use at the offertory in our Communion service, “Yours, O Lord, are the greatness, the power, the glory, the victory, and the majesty; for all that is in the heavens and on the earth is yours.”

On Harvest Festival Sunday we are recognising that everything we have belongs to God. The creation is God’s, but he has gifted it to us to look after, to be the stewards of His creation.

But how are we to exercise that stewardship? In my opinion there are two main ways: first we need to be, as Lynn Treneary told us in September, thankful people – like those Lynn meets in Meridi – to use David’s words again, “Riches and honour come from you, and you rule over all. In your hand are power and might; and it is in your hand to make great and to give strength to all. And now, our God, we give thanks to you…”

Giving thanks is of huge importance. It was J N Ward who said, “The Christian is a person whose mind is dominated by thankfulness. The believer who is a great sinner and yet preserves this characteristic element of thankfulness has still the essence of the kingdom of God within him”. Thankfulness is the open, happy and free recognition that we are infinitely indebted to God and that should help motivate our lives as Christians.

The once familiar words of the General Thanksgiving say everything that needs to be said, “We bless you for our creation, preservation, and all the blessings of this life; but above all for your immeasurable love in the redemption of the world by our Lord Jesus Christ, for the means of grace , and for the hope of glory. And give us, we pray, such a sense of all your mercies that our hearts may be unfeignedly thankful, and that we show forth your praise, not only with our lips, but in our lives, by giving up ourselves to your service, and by walking before you in holiness and righteousness all our days.”

So, we are to walk before God in holiness and righteousness. This is the second way in which we exercise our stewardship, by giving ourselves in love to the world. King David says, “I know that you test the heart and that integrity pleases you, my God…” It is integrity that forces us to admit that we’ve been bad stewards in that we’ve allowed an imbalanced and unjust situation to come into being where a third of the world has 20% more food than it needs whilst two thirds have 25% less then they need.

Think of the statistics that cover the number of doctors per person, housing, and life expectancy. There are huge disparities. It is a matter of judgement on all of us that whenever we have a general election in this country, little attention is paid to the world’s underprivileged two-thirds. We tend to listen to the politicians telling us how they will improve rather than simplify our own standard of living.

Do you remember those slogans used in world development appeals about twenty or thirty years ago: “Live justly to justify living,” and “Live simply that others may simply live!” In my darker moments, I feel that we are no longer a Christian country – the Church of England is the established church but seems to have little influence on the way our politicians conduct our country’s business. The Church of England has become an ‘accepted’ church, that is tolerated provided it doesn’t interfere with politics.

To sum up, we exercise our stewardship by being thankful people and by giving ourselves in love to the world. If we forget or ignore injustice at this harvest season, then it will appear to many that our Harvest Festival Service is something more akin to a fertility rite than to a Christian act of worship.

God our Father, giver of all good things, make us more thankful for what we have received, more content with what we have, more mindful of people in need and more ready to serve them in whatever way we can; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.

Max Young

We believe in One, Holy, Catholic & Apostolic Church (Exploring the Nicene Creed)

So far we have seen how this earliest catholic (i.e. universal) statement of the Christian Faith has concentrated on the nature and being of God. God the Father our Creator: God the Son, the Lord Jesus Christ, our Redeemer: God the Holy Spirit who makes the things of God real for us and brings about our Sanctification. We now look at the closing section of the Creed which briefly defines and marks out the nature or makeup of the living Church of God; the very family of Jesus; the community of Christian people. No statement of the Christian Faith whether Creeds or personal acts of faith can be complete without a clear declaration of belief in the Church’s essential nature, following of course first our belief in the One supreme God.

I stress this because it is tempting to denigrate or even dismiss the Church because it does get things wrong sometimes, or makes demands that are too costly. The Christian faith is something that must be very personal, but it is also about belonging to a corporate Body, the very Body of Christ, indeed the Bride of Christ. It’s impossible to be a Christian and not belong to the Church. Its mistakes and errors are often of our individual making in large part!

In the New Testament and in her early years the Church is often described with significant names like this: the New Israel, the Body of Christ, the Bride or Spouse of Christ, the People of God, the Vine, the Fellowship and Communion, the Way. Also supremely from the earliest years what I will call the four pillars of the Church, that she is One, Holy, Catholic and Apostolic, with her one sure foundation and head the Lord Jesus Christ. (1 Corinthians 12:27; Ephesians 5:25-27; Revelation 22:17; 1 Peter 2:9; John 15:5; Acts 2:42 & 9:2).

Two well know hymns express something of all this:

“The Church’s one foundation is Jesus Christ, her Lord; she is his new creation, by water and the word; from heaven he came and sought her to be his holy bride, with his own blood he bought her, and for her life he died”. (Samuel J. Stone: Hymns Old & New 636).

“And I hold in veneration, for the love of him alone, holy Church as his creation, and her teachings as his own”. (John Henry Newman: Hymns Old & New 174).

As a living organization with a clear mandate from Christ himself to teach his saving faith to all people, the Apostles and others enshrined that teaching in the writings of the New Testament. The Bishops at Nicea in A.D. 325, again as the Church’s commissioned leaders with the Holy Spirit’s continuing mandate, drew up this Creed to confirm the essentials of our holy biblical Faith when many disputed it. This is part of what it means to be an Apostolic Church.

The root meaning of the Greek noun Ekklesia which in English we translate Church is simply called out and gathered together. At the start of the Church’s mission, as the apostles preached about Jesus, new believers who responded to God’s calling were joined to a living community or Ekklesia. St. Luke writes of new converts joining the Church: “And the Lord added to their number day by day those who were being saved” (Acts 2:27,28,42 & 46).

It has continued so over 2,000 years to this very day. In Faringdon and Little Coxwell new members are still added to the living Church.

We now look at each of those four pillars of the Church, and for reasons that will become clear I shall take them in the reverse order. First, the Church is Apostolic because supremely it is built on the faith of the apostles and is forever nurtured in that faith and no other. In all our articles we have looked at the New Testament teaching about Jesus; his whole life, ministry and saving work. The apostolic faith was the distillation of all that those first disciples had experienced; a revelation of God’s great purposes of saving Love in and through Christ. Briefly “The faith once for all delivered to the saints” (Jude verse 3).

The Church is also Apostolic because it is sent out to bring the whole world and humanity to Christ. The Greek word apostolos simply means one who is sent. It has been said that the Church is the one organization which exists more for those who are not members than for those who are! The Church’s apostolic task may be summed up briefly like this, to save souls, to fashion saints, and to serve humanity. That’s not given in order of priority for each is equally important. This fundamental task involves organized Mission Societies (home and overseas), evangelism in many differing ways both large scale and by the gifted individual. Key operations also like translating and producing Bibles, Christian schools, hospitals etc. and Aid Charities. But perhaps most of all by the quiet steady witness of countless people like you and me. One of the greatest joys we will experience in heaven will surely be to meet those whom we have helped to come to Christ (Matthew 28:19-20; Acts 1:8).

The Church is also Apostolic because it is linked through all the Christian centuries to the early Apostles and leaders, first by its Faith and secondly by its threefold ordained ministry of Bishops, Priests and Deacons. In particular the office and role of the Bishop has by Ordination what is called Apostolic or Episcopal Succession. It’s a gift of grace given for service: for leadership, teaching and upholding the true Scriptural faith; guarding the Church’s unity and enabling its mission; caring for the ordained co-workers with the Bishop; and not least for all the people of God in their ministries too. It’s an onerous task and can only succeed with God’s constant renewing grace and the daily prayers of the faithful. Indeed all ordained men and women need loving prayer and patient support with warm friendship just as we support and pray for each other as Christ’s family.

The Church is also Apostolic because it shares the same life, worship and prayer of those very first Christians: Adoration of our one Lord and God: Praise to our only Saviour Jesus Christ: Glory to the life-giving Holy Spirit. The focal-point of that life and worship, from the very beginning, has always been the Sacrament of the Eucharist: the Holy Communion, the Mass, Divine Liturgy, or whatever name we use. The early Church Fathers often spoke of this great Sacrament as that which actually makes the Church, and so makes herself also to be a sacrament of saving love for many (1 Corinthians 10:16-17).

In the next two Articles we shall look at the Catholicity, Holiness and Oneness of the Church.

Praise be to God. Amen.

George Abell

Barabbas. Pilate and Jesus

Max Young was right to explore the figure of Barabbas more closely – and he is surely correct to conclude that this shadowy man has but a short moment in the glare – playing a crucial but, for him, entirely unintended role in the Passion of Christ, before retreating back into the recesses of the forgotten past.

This scene with Barabbas figures strongly in a new book, Pontius Pilate: Deciphering Memory by Aldo Schiavone*, a distinguished commentator on imperial Roman law. According to this interpretation, the appearance of Barabbas is part of an off-the-cuff attempt by the Roman prefect to set Jesus free (John’s Gospel makes this general intention quite clear: 19:12). Given a choice between Jesus (still without a charge against him) and Barabbas, the already-condemned subversive of Roman authority, the Sanhedrin would surely not free the latter for fear of insulting Rome.

But Pontius Pilate underestimates the Sanhedrin’s hostility to Jesus because of the claim that he was the Son of God, a view that would not have exercised the average Roman officer one way or another. Barabbas is chosen for release on religious grounds, despite the evident lack of political logic.

But Schiavone’s case is that Pilate was not an average Roman. Perhaps he needed to be special to play his part in what is arguably the most portentous meeting in human history. ‘Where are you from?’, Pilate asks. Clearly, ‘Nazareth’ is not the answer he is looking for or needs. The argument of this book, based on a very close and entertaining reading, mostly of the account in John’s Gospel, is that Pilate is shown to have reached a remarkable awareness of the extraordinary person before him.

As the exchange of questions and answers proceeds after the release of Barabbas, Pilate ‘put all the pieces together into a single picture, fully grasped the prisoner’s attitude, and became persuaded not to oppose his design’. In sum, Pilate came to acknowledge the end that Jesus, following his Father’s will, wanted to achieve.

The man who facilitates this is not deserving of the conventional reputation for being weak, vacillating, pushed and pulled by a crowd of the Sanhedrin, translators and hangers-on.  This brief summary does insufficient credit to the subtlety and power of the story that Schiavone perceives but two points after the events can be recalled usefully.

The first is that Pilate – none other – forcefully insists on the three-language sign to be raised over Jesus on the cross saying ‘Jesus of Nazareth, the King of the Jews’. Pilate almost certainly did not know fully what that implied but the internationalist and evangelising display of the title illuminates the serious nature of Pilate’s understanding.

Secondly, when the Nicene Creed was revised at the end of the 4th century to produce the version we use, Pontius Pilate is brought back into the text without any blame being attached to him. It is as though the truth lying behind John’s text was more fully appreciated by the early Fathers than in Christianity’s subsequent centuries.

Jesus and Pilate: as Schiavone puts it, ‘Those names had to go together, as on that morning when everything unfolded. Forever’.

*New York: Liveright Publishing Corporation, 2017 (ISBN 9781631492358).

Peter has a copy to lend for anybody interested.

Peter Foot

News from All Saints’ PCC

All Saints’ has been successful in gaining a Grant from the Templeton Trust which will be used to stage a series of talks, over the winter months, by eminent speakers, entitled ‘Science and Faith: Big Questions’. The first will be on Thursday 12th October in the Corn Exchange, commencing at 7.30pm, Sharon Dirckx, from the Oxford Centre for Christian Apologetics will speak on ‘Has Science killed God’.  The lecture on 3rd November will be ‘Creation or Evolution – do we have to choose’. There will follow further lectures on 11thJanuary and 8th February  (see the advert elsewhere in the magazine for details). There are free refreshments each evening and the chance to ask a question of the speaker. All evenings are free of charge and suitable for everyone, whether or not they have any science background. We are encouraged to bring friends along and make the events widely known. It is hoped we may be able to establish an annual Science and Faith lecture in the town.

As a PCC we are anxious to keep up to date with the needs and opinions of our young families, and with this in mind, have organised an event for young parents in September, when they will be able to enjoy a meal and a quiz but also tell us how we can help them and their children in their spiritual lives.

A working group will also be reviewing our monthly pattern of Sunday worship. It is hoped that we will be able to run an Alpha course this Autumn. And, a monthly Church Prayer Meeting will start on Wednesday 4th October  at 7.30pm in the Barber Rooms, and thereafter on the first Wednesday of each month.

On a Saturday morning in November, the PCC will be meeting with members of our Lead Academy group who are attending a group for churches from market Towns. The aim is to help us set a vision for All Saints’ in the coming year.

The Fabric Working Group, recently set up, are now prioritising, and working their way through the jobs needed to keep our church building in good repair, and implementing any improvements too. You will notice the results of their endeavours over the comings months.

Finally, don’t forget to put 8th December at 6.00pm in your diary when our town Nativity will get the Christmas period off to a lovely start.

Quarter Peal of All Saints’ Bells in memory of George Haynes

George Haynes was a bell ringer at All Saints’ who learned to ring when Queen Victoria was still on the throne. He lived at Elm Tree Cottages in London Street with his wife Fanny and their five children. George was nearly 40 when war broke out but he enlisted with the Oxford & Bucks Light Infantry to serve his king and country. He was killed at the battle of Passchendaele on 22nd August 1917 and is commemorated on the Tyne Cot Wall (see picture below) which means that his body was never recovered.

The bell ringers of Great Britain commissioned Roll-of-Honour books. These are kept at St Paul’s Cathedral, and the Custodian alerted us to the centenary of George’s death. On 15th August we rang a quarter peal in his memory and were very pleased to welcome three generations of his descendants to the belfry before we began.

We placed the following notice in the Ringing World, the bell ringers’ newspaper:

Tuesday, 15th August 2017

1288 Grandsire Triples

1    Kay Chamberlain (Faringdon)
2    Elaine Baber (Uffington)
3    Paul Coad (Uffington)
4    Cheryl Watson (Faringdon)
5    Alison Merryweather-Clarke (North Leigh)
6    Andrew Baxter (Uffington)
7    Jon Chamberlain (C) (Faringdon)
8    Julian Watson (Faringdon)

In grateful memory of George Haynes, a ringer at this tower, killed at Passchendaele, 22nd August 1917

Jon Chamberlain

Introduction to the Fabric Group

The Fabric Group was formed a few months ago to help manage the range of building matters facing the church. The group is chaired by Bruce Garfield, with the other members being Andrew Sargent, Geoff Edgington, Jon Chamberlain and myself.

One of our first tasks was to list all the ongoing building issues (including those raised in our last Quinquennial inspection) and arrange them in priority order, with our intention being to focus on the top six or seven – other topics will be added when we’ve completed some of the highest priority items.

We’ve outlined this approach to the PCC and we’ve agreed that the high priority areas that we will focus on are as follows (with the highest priority at the top):

  • Additional screen on pillar (to increase visibility for Music Group)
  • Adapting Barber Rooms store area into Church Office
  • Roof / rainwater goods repairs (with work phased over a couple of years)
  • Installation of wifi in Church & Barber Rooms
  • Extension of Pye Chapel dais
  • Additional lighting on main platform (under tower crossing)
  • Installation of speakers in Barber Rooms

Even this list of “high priority” items is a long list!  Some of this work will require approval by the Diocesan Advisory Committee (DAC) – which is effectively a dedicated “planning permission” system for the Church of England, but some of the more minor items can be done without this consultation process – which should enable us to achieve some quick wins.

Thank you for your ongoing support and if you have any questions or comments about building matters in the Church over the coming months, please speak to myself or any of the other members of the Fabric Group.

Jim McGowan

“We believe in the Holy Spirit . . .” (Exploring the Nicene Creed)

We now come to the closing sections of the Creed expressing our faith in how God has revealed himself, his very nature and purposes, through his Holy Spirit; and continues to work through him. Next we look at the nature of the Church itself; and finally the fulfilment of all in the life of heaven.

In several earlier articles we saw how the Holy Spirit led and guided the Apostles and first Christians of the New Testament Church, making clear the full implications of Christ’s life and teaching. When explaining the origin of the Nicene Creed I wrote “The Bishops in Council believed that the Holy Spirit would guide them, just as Jesus had promised, to lead his Church, and so us also, to a better understanding of saving truth in Christ (John 16:13). They followed the pattern of those first Apostles who had wrestled with major issues concerning the very existence, meaning and purpose of Christianity (Acts 15:28). They believed God would speak through them and confirm their conclusions”.

Writing about Jesus’ Ascension to heaven I wrote “The day had now come for Jesus to say good bye to his loyal friends firmly promising his continued presence in a new and different dimension. They would have the very presence and power of God’s Holy Spirit, a charisma and dynamism that would continue century after century until the end of time…”. Hence our strong belief is that the Holy Spirit gives and confirms to believers, a new baptismal life in Christ, one which he also makes truly real, by the very presence of Jesus as we receive the Sacrament of his Body and Blood. That he still guides his Church into the fullness of truth in Christ, empowering us for Christian living and witness with the Fruit of the Spirit and the Gifts of the Spirit. He is, I believe, the inspiration and source of all that is genuinely good, beautiful and true, in all peoples of all faiths. The Creedal statement “the Lord the giver of life” sums all this up. (John 14:25-26; Galatians 5:22-23; 1 Corinthians 12:4-11).

The Holy Spirit has of course been at work from the very beginning of Creation, and through all the Old Testament centuries, steadily patiently preparing the way for Christ’s Incarnation in God’s chosen appropriate time. (Genesis 1:1-2; etc.)  It meant unfolding to several prophets, priests  and kings (and many others), a growing understanding of the very nature and being and loving purposes of the One Eternal God. “Who has spoken through the prophets” is how the Creed sums up this first phase of the work of Revelation; a glorious Creative-Redemptive task of divine Love, fully and finally completed in Christ Jesus. (Hebrews 1:1-2; Romans 15:4).

And each one of us, in the personal journey of faith and common life together in Christ, must never forget that the Holy Spirit’s life-giving guidance and empowering is forever ongoing and unfailing. That in the confusions and divisions of today’s world and church he does not leave us; and that a greater fullness of truth, unity, harmony, love and peace, is close at hand.

Our daily prayer to Him should be to keep us faithful to the task, truly grateful for our dear Saviour’s sake. Expect great things from God and attempt great things for God! In all his good creative work and gifts the Holy Spirit never ceases to bring comfort and consolation, forgiveness and healing, enlightenment and renewal, warmth and light and fire of love. He is the One who in all situations and needs ‘stands by us’, the Paraclete, a Greek word for this. It’s a name for the Holy Spirit used by the Church over many centuries.

The Creed also stresses the Unity of the Father with Jesus the Son, and with the Holy Spirit. The word “Trinity” is not used. That name is not found in the New Testament. In all of its books however, its truth in essence is clearly evident. It was not until the 3rd or 4th Centuries that the One Supreme God, who is also three distinct Persons, is actually called The Holy and Undivided Trinity. The Creed affirms that we worship and give glory to the One and Only God who has actually made himself known to us at our human level, as the Father our Creator, the Son our Redeemer, and the Spirit who brings divine life and holiness to us. In using these expressions the first Christians were employing ordinary language and everyday human concepts (for they had no other) to convey the mystery of eternal truths, gleaned by real living experience, and understood within the mind and the heart by faith.

Worship and prayer is always of course to the Father, through Our Lord Jesus Christ his Son, and in the very life of the Holy Spirit. This is its liturgical or theological order. But it doesn’t matter whether we actually pray to God the Father direct, to Jesus direct, or to the Spirit direct, for they are always together and always One. It’s largely a matter of upbringing, local church custom or personal choice. And I want to emphasize that the Holy Spirit is not an ‘It’ but a He’, or a ‘She’ if you prefer. The Holy Spirit is personal and real just as the Father and Jesus are personal and real to us. All that we have come to learn about the sheer mind-blowing mystery and wonder, greatness and majesty of the Eternal God does not make our personal communion with him any less real or important. The essential nature and power of God is Divine Eternal Love. It means breathtaking living relationship, warm, personal and wonderful, with and within the very life of the Trinity, and with each one of us. (1 John 4:16).

In his earthly ministry Jesus patiently explained to the disciples that he would pray to the Father to send the Spirit (John 14:16 & 26). He kept that promise fully. And the Creed affirms it by the statement “who proceeds from the Father and the Son”.  The words “and the Son” did not occur in the original Nicene Creed. They were added many years later by the Western Latin part of the Church. The Eastern Greek part of the Church continued to follow the original wording, as do the Orthodox Churches to this day. This line of the Creed asserts how the Persons of the Trinity always work together in love, unity and harmony. It also means that the prayer and promise of Jesus is fulfilled now and everyday and forever, in the ongoing saving and sanctifying work of the Holy Spirit. Praise be to God.

Spirit of the living God, fall afresh on us.
Spirit of the living God, fall afresh on us.
Melt us, mould us, fill us, use us.
Spirit of the living God, fall afresh on us. Amen. (D. Iverson)

George Abell