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From the Village and Church News December 2019 - January 2020
What a curious year this has been for us as a nation. So many times in recent months people have said: ‘I have never seen this before!’… of well established politicians removed by their party, of personnel change, new parties arising, the use and abuse of the system of government by a prime minister, of deals proposed and rejected in a loop; and of such a long uncertain relationship with our nearest international neighbours.
Not since the suffragettes has such tangible campaigning taken place across Britain as demonstrated by Extinction Rebellion for climate change. And do we ever remember a time when a child stood up and was heard not by their community but by nations across the world? Such is Greta Thunberg. In the year we were plagued with wildfires in Yorkshire in February - highest temperature 21.2°C; an Easter Monday of 25 C; the highest June temperatures; the hottest day on record, 38.7 C (101.7 F) at Cambridge; an August bank holiday of 33.3 C; and torrential rain and flooding in the Autumn.
retail has been mainly down, including the loss of Debenhams, Jamie’s, and Thomas
There were some high points: mainline stations abolished a charge to use the toilets. Women’s footie scored 11.7 million viewers. The Isle of Wight is awarded "Biosphere Reserve" status; and John Henry Newman is the first English person for centuries to be sainted by the Roman Catholic Church.
For me the year was taken into a different realm in July with the anniversary of the NASA shuttle and moon landing. It was pleasant to be taken away from the struggles and difficulties of life on earth, to a different perspective. We saw again those struggles and difficulties against the realisation of the extraordinary beauty and vulnerability of the Earth.
As we come into Advent, the four weeks of preparation for Christmas, I am reassured of two things: that we do not walk alone through any difficulties and struggles; and that our help comes from outside our earthly sphere.
The Gospel of John starts: ‘In the beginning was the Word…’ our help is a mysterious force, our creator, our life-force, our ultimate history and a light that darkness cannot overpower. We tend to call this life force ‘God’. In ancient times this was ‘El’ and ‘Yahweh’. After creating and enabling the beautiful physical world into being, this extraordinary force for good was squeezed into human form and ‘lived among us.’ This Jesus, whose ordinary birth we celebrate at Christmas.
Various aspects of the Christmas story have been popularised and emphasised and we may not think of Jesus’ birth as being ordinary, but it was, at the time. Animals occupied the lower part of the main house room of ordinary folk, so a baby in a manger was not such a daft idea, a bit like the rumour in our family history that more than one of my great grandmothers’ children were put into open drawers for their crib. (Cribs are expensive!) Angels appear a lot in the Christmas story, to accompany the main characters through difficult decisions, but that doesn’t make Mary and Joseph or even the wise visitors from the east any less normal. It simply means that at this crucial time the Word was given when and how it could be, to help them through. Because after the initial wonder of the birth with its visitors, came the massacre of the innocent children of Jerusalem, the night escape into a neighbouring country as refugees, and the eventual return into rural obscurity. There was nothing over-protected about this experience, it was unsettling and troubled and extraordinarily modern.
I find it helpful to understand as I go into Advent this year that our help to help and save ourselves from ourselves does not come from us, but comes from outside ourselves, from a good force, a personal God who loves us for who we are.
From the Village and Church News October - November 2019
I am very conscious, now we have come into September, that the year is really rolling round. Our family wedding, full of joy has come and gone, the season is beginning to change again. My tomato plants are producing fantastic amounts of fruit, the sunflowers are still blooming, but the poor diseased chestnuts have curled brown leaves already, and we’ve had some definite dips in temperature! The stubble has green growing through it and I wait to see the brown furrows after ploughing. The squirrels in our garden have exhausted themselves in a frenzy of hazel gathering and I noticed just this week a vibrating wall of sound from the bees on the ivy flowers over a fence.
There are real treats in each change of season. Like the refrain of a favourite song there are things to look forward to. Thank God for seasons and change and good things to come! I think it is important at the moment, in our bizarre political life and our unknown political future, that we ground ourselves in what is known and what is good.
One of the psalms in the church readings this week was 107. It is a really long Psalm, which speaks of a lot of ways in which God is at work in communities and different people’s lives, scooping them up at times of desperation to remind them of love. And punctuating that Psalm is a wonderful refrain:
Let them give thanks to the Lord for his goodness •
and the wonders he does for his children.
It is almost a saga psalm and brings a more hopeful perspective of the times moving on in the stream of the goodness of God.
For it is all too easy to be despondent when we feel uncomfortable about the future; all too easy to be brought to the low level of sniping at one another as we have seen modelled to us in Parliament. But the cycle of life will roll on, times will change, leaders will come and go and we need to do all we can to the good, that we are not decreased and despondent, but manage to show in our lives, our community and even our nation a people’s thankfulness for beauty, grace and gifts of nature given to us.
Please do join us in the village hall on October 6th in Harston for a Harvest Thanksgiving Lunch. The two village churches are providing the food, but we’d love to have your company. Come and be thankful for what is good, a time genuinely to eat, drink and be merry! Equally Newton Harvest Supper (with entertainment) will as usual be in the Village rooms on September 21st, and the festival in church on the 22nd at 4pm with two choirs. Hauxton have their harvest service on October 13th and then, on November 16th, St Edmund’s Fair at the Village Hall.
Meanwhile in All Saints’ Harston we are starting Story-church at 4.30 on October 13th (and the second Sunday of each month). If you would like to bring your children to a story-telling, with music and ending with refreshments at 5 you would be so welcome. Over the months we will gradually see that love and goodness of God rolling through the Bible stories and into our lives.
What a great time of year this is!
From the Village and Church News June-July 2019:
How lovely that we are rolling into the summer season! I love the seasonality of Britain; it never fails to fascinate, and sometimes challenge – especially if the weather does not match our expectations. I have been particularly busy, in spare moments, starting to prepare our garden for our daughter’s wedding. Certain eyesores had to be cleared, other so-called ‘cleared’ spaces had to be properly dug and then all sorts of things needed to be planted . . . fortunately, an August wedding means that things I planted a little late may be late coming into flower, which may work . . . but those of you who have done Open Gardens are allowed a wry smile on my behalf!
More predictable is the church calendar and what will definitely happen on which days. Again, I love the Anglican Church foundation on a religious calendar. I love our times of preparation (like Lent and Advent} and our celebrations. In our national calendar, most of the Holy Days (and therefore, all importantly, the public holidays) have disappeared. Life in rural Britain was peppered with possibilities for partying, and all thanks to the Church. What a nice position that was, to be the provider of merriment and relaxation! I find it interesting that our extra days’ holidays these days are linked to whether our financial institutions are working or not . . .
However, I am finding a real joy in Harston, Hauxton and Newton through our Music Group and Choir. They help to centre our thoughts and our moods appropriately. Music and song are wonderful things, and I am so pleased that they have already been the source, not just of raising my spirits, but also allowing me sometimes to go deeper into the experience of a particular time, like Easter Saturday. If you like singing or playing and would like to come and join the Music Group for Harston/Hauxton, or the Choir for the special occasion moments in Newton, you are really welcome! We are now in conversation about further possibilities for the use of music in some more informal services in our churches. Maybe in the next issue, I can let you know some details, as well as my chances of flowers at the wedding!
It was tragic, earlier this year, watching the devastation of Notre-Dame, and for many French people it was a realisation of the importance of sacred buildings. Our Church buildings are really important on so many levels. They will always be the place where people can go to be quiet and aware of the deeper soul stuff of our lives, a place to meet with God. They need to be there exactly for that, but also as the repository of the history of the lives of people who have lived in the village over the centuries. They are places where community can gather, places of joy and sadness, places of art and beauty, places that have marked the passage of time in our land. St Edmund’s Church in Hauxton is 1050 years old this year. It is a beautiful church architecturally and shows in its building how it has been over time. Even if you have no affiliation with the Christian faith do come along and see our village church on Saturday July 13th. There will be exhibitions of history, a chance to go up the tower, live music and a very special exhibition of craft (not for sale), along with a constant supply of wonderful food throughout the day (11.00 am – 4.00 pm).
From the Village and Church News April-May 2019:
A message from the Rev'd Susan Bowden-Pickstock, Associate Priest for the Benefice of Harston, Hauxton and Newton
How lovely for us as a family to be making new changes at this time of year. We moved into the Harston Vicarage at the end of February and have been so grateful for the very warm welcome we have received in the villages and churches. Thank you!
Moving is not a new thing for us as a family. In fact, family life is a constant development, isn't it?
I am an East Anglian, born and bred in villages in Suffolk. I went to school in Felixstowe, and then off to university first time round in Chichester, to read English Literature; one of my great loves is stories. Following this, I moved to London to study nursing at Guys Hospital, and then back to Cambridge, as Philip and I had met, married and he was working in finance here. For the last thirty years we have lived in Cambridge itself, in Fulbourn, Lode, Earith, five years in North Norfolk, and now in Harston. We have four adult children, three born in the Rosie and one at home. The first three knew mostly Cambridge itself, as Philip's work and my career in nursing, then BBC local radio, kept us close; but Joel has known the full impact of moving that ordination has given us. It has been fascinating finding the differences in attitude and lifestyle in each place we have lived, and we're really pleased now to be in South Cambridge, as there is a hint of hills out this way!
For, as well as stories, I love the outdoors and exercise. I have been fortunate to be able to enjoy trampolining, cycling, swimming, riding, and mountain hiking with two of our sons. We particularly love Snowdon; there is just one route we have yet to climb, the slightly pecipitous Crib Goch, but it's difficult to find a day when the wind allows that one! However, Cambridgeshire is very good for cycling, and our dog has proved really good for getting us out walking locally. Meanwhile, I am back studying. another joy, and our children all move on in jobs, and relationships, and this year Charlotte will be married in Harston Church.
This has been a time for me to take stock, to reflect on who we are as human beings in relation to ourselves, to God, and to each other. A time for me to be thankful for all the aspects of life, family, community, nature, and culture that have shaped me and delighted me. We look forward to our time here, with its inevitable challenges and its many joys.