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From the Vicar - March 2020

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It’s now about six weeks since Martin and I and our dogs moved into The Rectory in Garsington, and a few weeks since I was inducted, instituted and installed as Vicar at All Saints’, Cuddesdon.

It was a lovely service, and I really enjoyed meeting many people from Cuddesdon and Denton in the church and in the village hall afterwards.  Thank you to all who worked so hard to give us a good welcome. 

We are settling into The Rectory and village life, and I seem to be drinking a lot of coffee and eating a lot of cake as I attend coffee mornings and other events in the three parishes.  I’m afraid I will soon be putting on weight.  Perhaps I should give up cake for Lent!

One thing I am hoping to do during Lent – which I’ve already mentioned in a couple of sermons – is to give up ‘busyness.’  I intend to re-read an excellent little book by Stephen Cottrell - former Bishop of Reading, then Bishop of Chelmsford, and soon to be the next Archbishop of York – called, Do Nothing to Change your Life: Discovering what happens when you stop.  I intend to practice mindfulness – “paying attention to the present moment, without wishing it were otherwise.”  I hope to attend the 7.30am Eucharist at the college some mornings during term-time; and I intend to take time to watch the birds and squirrels in my garden, the red kites soaring overhead; and to stop and look at the daffodils and give thanks for the beauty of God’s creation.  I acknowledge that I shall probably fail in my attempt to give up ‘busyness,’ but I do hope that I will introduce moments of stillness and calm into most days.

Another thing I hope to do during Lent is introduce a weekly period of reflection and quietness in our churches.  I hesitate to call it a service, as then I would be bound by some of the rules and regulations concerning church services; but I do hope it will provide a safe space for stillness and tranquillity, and enable us to become more aware of God’s presence with us.  It will be called Oasis, and I hope will meet in the chancel of All Saints’ on Wednesday 18th March and Wednesday 8th April at 7.30pm, with sessions in Garsington and Horspath on other Wednesdays during Lent.  There will be some music to listen to, a reading from Scriptures and/or a poem, a period of silence and some prayer, finishing around 8pm.  All would be welcome to attend, whether you attend church regularly or haven’t set foot in a church for many years.

I mentioned in last month’s newsletter the importance of Sabbath rest or time-off, as a regular spiritual discipline, and as an important contributor to well-being, wholeness and health; and I have also touched on mental health, and the benefits of mindfulness, in one of my sermons. The sermon, dated 16th February, is available to read on our Benefice website at www.gchparishes.co.uk

Many people today are affected by stress, depression, anxiety and other problems with mental health and well-being; and I do believe that the church (both our lovely peaceful church buildings, which have been places of prayer and worship for hundreds of years, and also the people who are part of our churches) can play a part in promoting and enabling well-being.  I hope we can also provide a space for people to pray and to talk about the struggles they may be facing.  It’s good to talk; and our churches, village halls and pubs all provide opportunities for people to combat loneliness and isolation, and to meet with others on a regular basis.

In our last newsletter, I mentioned that my husband Martin and I, and our dogs Marlowe and Coogee, had enrolled on a Beginner’s Scentwork Course; and I said that I would let you know how we were getting on.  To date, Marlowe has attended four sessions.  Coogee has missed one due to injury, and is set to miss the remaining two as she has just come into season.  Nevertheless, both dogs now recognise the command “Find it!” and will happily search for and locate small pieces of material scented with cloves.  Marlowe is doing very well.  Coogee is more easily distracted by other scents and – particularly when working outdoors – would rather hunt for mice, birds, rabbits and deer than for cloves.  But both dogs have successfully searched boxes, suitcases, tables and chairs, the exterior of a transit van, and a variety of scenarios to find edible treats or cloves.  Having been trained to locate cloves, it will be quite easy to train both dogs to recognise and search for other scents too.  Marlowe is already skilled at finding food, and has been known to steal steak out of the frying pan and a Sunday roast off the kitchen work bench.  Coogee’s speciality is soft toys – she can detect and tear apart in minutes any soft toy that finds its way into our house.

I hope you all have a healthy and holy Lent.  Please do consider joining me in attempting to be less busy, and take time to stop and smell the roses.  Are you familiar with the 1974 country hit of that name, by Mac Davis?  I’ve just discovered it!

Watch out (in our weekly pew sheets, on our website and social media) for more details of Oasis, and our services during Holy Week, and do come along if you can.

Thank you and God bless,

Revd Karen