Day of prayer and fasting

I imagine most of us have been shocked by the events of the last few days. We find it hard to believe that there are still people in our continent, which suffered so much less than 80 years ago, who seem to think that war is something to be entered into lightly and that an attack on a peaceful, free country is an acceptable means of achieving political goals. We watch the news and grieve with those we see fleeing in confusion and fear, and those who have lost loved ones. And possibly you feel the same helplessness I feel.

There is much that we can do. We can support our leaders’ attempts to change Vladimir Putin’s mind through sanctions, even though it will cost us financially. We can send money to charities caring for the suffering. We can encourage our local politicians to be welcoming to refugees.

But more than anything we can pray. We can ask God to bring about peace and justice, to calm fears, strengthen tired hands and heal the wounded and to help leaders see paths of reconciliation and cooperation rather than hatred and destruction. Only when hearts are changed will lasting peace be possible.

We do not ask because we are better than others; we all know that is not true. We come because we know that God desires a world of justice and peace, and so do we.

Pope Francis has encouraged us to set aside this Ash Wednesday (2nd March 2022) as a day of prayer and fasting. To humble ourselves before God. To acknowledge that we all need his help to pursue righteousness and peace. And to plead with him to have mercy on our world, not just on our neighbours in the Ukraine and Russia.

Fasting is simply the act of showing how seriously we care by choosing voluntarily to deny ourselves a meal or two. It also provides us with more time in our busy schedules to pray. It doesn’t force God to act, but it is good for us to be a little more serious than simply giving five seconds’ thought to others’ suffering.

There won’t be any extra services across the Benefice, but the usual Ash Wednesday service (at All Saints, Yatesbury at 1pm) will include a time of prayer for Ukraine and Russia.

If you don’t know what to say, that doesn’t matter. Say whatever you like to God – he doesn’t need fancy words. However, please feel free to use the following is it helps:

Almighty God,
from whom all thoughts of truth and peace proceed:
kindle, we pray, in the hearts of all, the true love of peace
and guide with your pure and peaceable wisdom
those who take counsel for the nations of the earth
that in tranquillity your kingdom may go forward,
till the earth is filled with the knowledge of your love;
through Jesus Christ your Son our Lord,
who is alive and reigns with you,
in the unity of the Holy Spirit,
one God, now and for ever. Amen

Christmas 2021

The Christmas services will shortly be available on the website and in the Villages magazine.

The plan is to offer a relatively normal programme, but I would like to offer a couple of comments:

1 Everything is subject to change

We have made our decisions based on Covid staying more or less in check. If that changes, especially if the Government issues new guidelines or compulsory rules, we may need to make changes, possibly even quite late. Do please check Facebook or this website, where we will try to give you as much warning as possible, and then share the news wider if possible!

2 Please keep each other safe

Even if the law doesn’t change, we need to keep each other safe. So we will be reintroducing wearing masks in church for the Christmas period. I would rather do this than cancel the singing! Additionally, if you are able, please could you consider taking a lateral flow test before coming. They are free and easy to get and use, and will help us avoid spreading the virus unnecessarily to each other.

For all the services, either visit the Christmas 2021 page, or go to the page for your own village in the “Our Churches” section.

I really look forward to seeing lots of you over this special season.


Remembrance 2021 Heddington

This Sunday is Remembrance Sunday. Although we no longer have a limit on how many people gather in church for a service, we still need to be cautious.

This Sunday’s service will therefore start in the church, but we will be moving outside a little earlier than usual, and holding the entire Act of Remembrance (including the reading of names and the two minutes’ silence) at or near the Garden of Remembrance. So do make sure that you come prepared for the weather.

I know this is a break from tradition, and we all hope that next year will be more normal, but we feel that this is a way to pay our respects in an appropriate way without putting anyone at unnecessary risk.

Remembrance 2021 Cherhill – outside the Manor House

Although there are no legal limits this year on numbers who can attend a service in church, we are still operating on a 50% capacity basis just to be on the safe side.

As we will be joined by the 1st Cherhill Scout troop as usual, we felt that there was a high chance that we will be (considerably) above this limit, and that the service should therefore take place outside.

So please come prepared for the weather as we will stay outside even if it rains.

To avoid everyone having to find somewhere to stand in the churchyard, Oliver and Belinda Haslam have very kindly given us permission to use the car parking area outside the Manor House to hold the service. There should be plenty of space, but please could I remind you that this is someone’s private property, and to make sure any little ones in your care don’t go wandering off.

This was a difficult decision, as it will be cold, and I know some of you find it hard to stand for long periods, but I hope this allows us to gather as a village in remembrance without people worrying about whether they might get sick.

Harvest 2021

Harvest this year is back to normal (mostly). So come and join us to celebrate the food we have to eat and to pray for our farmers and those involved in providing us with food. Gifts of food (packaged rather than fresh, please) will be taken as usual to the Calne food bank to be shared with those less well off than ourselves.

The services this year are:

Calstone, 26th September at 9.45am
Cherhill, 26th September at 10.00am
Yatesbury, 10th October at 9.45am
Heddington, 10th October at 11.15am

We would love to see you if you can make it. The services are suitable for all ages.

The Oldbury Benefice