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From The Vicar - June 2020

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I hope you are well, and enjoying this lovely weather?

I must admit that Martin and I are finding it a little too hot and sunny on some days; and the dogs aren’t getting many walks at the moment – though we have just bought a garden parasol and dog paddling pool ready for our ‘holiday at home’ later this month, when we were due to go to Greece.  Instead, we’ll be sitting in the garden, sipping ouzo and eating Greek salad and moussaka.

The Rectory garden is a delight, and it’s been lovely to watch new trees, plants and flowers come to life.  Last week, our roses began to open out, and they are delightful.  Although I’ve never been much of a gardener, the various herbs and lavenders I planted recently are thriving; and I’m hoping to plant some strawberries soon.  I spent many hours trying to rid the garden of cow parsley – until friends assured me that it is wonderful for butterflies and other insects.  We now have a well-mowed area of lawn, and a more natural area around the apple trees, with cow parsley, nettles and wild flowers (although I recently discovered that May was “no-mow May,” and we were encouraged to leave all our gardens un-mowed to help our bees and butterflies.  I wonder if “no-mow June” would work?)

In worship recently, we reflected on the passage from John’s Gospel where Jesus is saying farewell to his disciples, before his arrest and crucifixion.  Jesus tells his disciples, “I am the true vine, my father is the gardener …  Abide in me as I abide in you … I am the vine, you are the branches.”  (John 15;1-5).  During the coronavirus pandemic and lockdown, we have all (except certain government advisers!) been doing a lot of ‘abiding’, of remaining at home, of staying safe and helping to keep others safe.  Sometimes, I’m sure, staying home can be frustrating.  Sometimes, it might be a little boring.  I’m aware that for some people – victims of domestic and sexual abuse – staying home can actually be very dangerous and frightening.  But Jesus calls us to abide not in our homes, but to abide in him – to live in him – and he promises that, if we abide in him, we will bear much fruit.

I’m writing this just after Mental Health Awareness Week and, in our Outdoor Church session recently, we practised mindfulness – living in the present moment, trying not to worry about the past, or about the future, but just abiding in the present.  We spent time enjoying the birdlife, plants and flowers we find in our garden and reflecting on another Bible passage:

 “Do not worry about your life, what you will eat or what you will drink, or about your body, what you will wear … Consider the birds of the air … consider the lilies of the field … do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will bring worries of its own …” (Matthew 6:25-34).

Jesus, it seems, was an advocate of mindfulness.

We live in a beautiful area, surrounded by marvellous views, with some lovely walks on our doorsteps.  Many of us have gardens we can enjoy.  I encourage you, if you can, to spend some time in your gardens each day, considering the birds and the flowers.  Reflect on what it might mean for you to abide in Jesus, and to abide in his love.

If you don’t have a garden, there are still many ways in which you can abide in Jesus, and abide in his love.  The Bible tells us how the risen Jesus appeared to his disciples in the locked and bolted upper room, and said, “Peace be with you.”

I pray that, wherever you are – at home, in your garden, in your workplace, or in your school – you may know the peace of God which passes all understanding, and the love of God which knows no bounds.

I can’t end this message without a thought and a word for our theological college.  June is, of course, the month when some students sit their Oxford University finals; while others leave Cuddesdon and move to the parishes where they will serve their curacies.  Ordinations usually begin at the end of June, with some in July, and others at Michaelmas (late September).  June is usually a time of fond farewells, including a special leavers’ service in All Saints’ Church.  Instead, this June, many ordinands and their partners, spouses and families are leaving with little opportunity to say goodbye, and the “leavers’ service” will, I expect, take place via Zoom or some other virtual gathering.  Children won’t have the opportunity to say goodbye to school-friends and teachers.  Ordinations have been postponed, and many ordinands will be licensed as lay-ministers until such time as they can be ordained.  I hope that you will join me in wishing those leaving Cuddesdon all the very best for their future, and I hope that you will join me in praying for them and for the whole college community at this difficult time.  I hope that those who are leaving Cuddesdon in these strange circumstances will return for a visit, when they are able, and I’m sure they will receive a warm welcome in the village, church and pub when they do so.  For those leaving Cuddesdon this month, I’d like to end with a blessing from the Northumbria Community:

May the peace of the Lord Christ go with you,
wherever he may send you.
May he guide you through the wilderness,
protect you through the storm.
May he bring you home rejoicing
at the wonders he has shown you.
May he bring you home rejoicing
once again into our doors.

God bless and stay safe

Karen
Revd Karen