Welcome to our Summer Special

Inside this edition of the newsletter you can read about the Community Festival and events surrounding the lead up to the Olympics that happened here, but to start with some reflections on the Patronal Festival service at St Margaret Mapledurham at which we thanked Keith and Ann Knee-Robinson for their years of leadership and service.

If you are getting away over the summer, I trust that it will be a time of re-creation; if not, I hope the sun continues to shine as it is (honest!) as I write!

With my very best wishes

Dan Tyndall

Thank You Keith

St Margaret’s Church was packed to overflowing on Friday 20th July. Regular members of the congregation mingled with folks from St John’s and St Peter’s as well as former members of the church who had all gathered for a very special service: not only was it the Patronal Festival for St Margaret Mapledurham, but it was also the day on which Keith’s licence as a priest came to an end. We gathered to worship God, to share bread and wine, to commemorate Margaret and to thank Keith and Ann for their leadership within that church community for over twenty years.

Keith trained for ordained ministry as the centuries rolled over into another millennium! As part of his training he was supported by a local group which was overseen by Lee Rayfield, then vicar of a church in Maidenhead. Keith was keen to invite him to preach at this special service. Back in 2005 Lee moved onto a new role within the Church of England, so it was as Bishop of Swindon, fully regaled in cope and mitre, that he returned to St Margaret’s for the first time since the church’s Patronal Festival in 2001.

The service, designed by Keith, was (as many people said afterwards) “just right”. It had an appropriate air for such an important occasion, without being over done. Much of the credit for this should go to Bishop Lee whose manner and style fitted superbly with the feel of the service.

In his sermon Bishop Lee encouraged us to reflect on the seasons: not the seasons of the year, but the seasons of our life. He outlined the different textures of spring, summer, autumn and winter comparing them to the activities undertaken by farmers. We were then asked to determine which season most clearly spoke to our own spiritual lives at this moment.

He wondered whether Keith was feeling ‘wintery’ as he came to lay down this part of his Christian discipleship; but went on to suggest that perhaps this is ‘spring’ moment. Rather than seeing this as an ending for Keith and Ann, the bishop spoke of it is the beginnings of a new chapter. Indeed he went to suggest that, if this is true for the two of them, it is also true for the whole of St Margaret’s Church.

Bishop Lee went on to develop this theme by talking about two different concepts of time: chronos and kairos. Whereas chronos (a Greek word from which we get the word chronology) speaks of linear time, of things that happen in a regular sequence, like time on a clock face; kairos (he didn’t give us a English word that comes from this Greek word!) speaks of special moments in time when significant things occur.

We were left pondering the confluence of chronos, as Keith and Ann take another step along the path of Christian faith, and kairos, as they and we look forward, expectantly, to whatever the future holds.

Keith then led the rest of the service and presided at the Eucharist. For the first time in many years, silverware, on loan from St Margaret’s to the Victoria and Albert museum, was used for the service.  Ian Lowry writes: We will have two chalices and one standing paten from the FitzClarence communion collection on Friday night. As background, William IV made a considerable contribution to the new school in the village. He paid for a serious extension to the vicarage, which included the fine, tall flint wall which partially defines the rectory garden. I assume he paid for the communion plate, as Augustus was quite a young man when he was appointed to the living of Mapledurham. The rector who made way for Augustus was given the see of Chester for his inconvenience and from there was elevated to the see of Canterbury.

After Communion the service sheet suggested that the whole congregation was going to say together that familiar post communion prayer which starts: Father of all, we give you thank and praise that when we were still far off you brought us home. However, just before that Keith offered this prayer:

God of our pilgrimage,
you have led us to the living water:
refresh and sustain us
as we go forward on our journey,
in the name of Jesus Christ our Lord.

It is hard to think of a more fitting prayer not just for our evening together, but for the future development of St Margaret’s Church. We have recently begun to consider ways in which we can think of St Margaret’s a Pilgrim Church, and, nestling as it is alongside the River Thames, the imagery of ‘living water’ is equally powerful. Yet it speaks also of the particular step that Keith and Ann were taking in clear yet profound ways.

Proceedings were interrupted just before the final dismissal when a couple of short speeches and a presentation were made before refreshments were served outside. Dan spoke of the equal value of each of the three churches in the parish and said he was delighted and proud to have served alongside Keith who he described as loyal, capable and dependable. Dan also read a message from James Cook, for many years the representative of Eton College, patrons of the ancient parish of Mapledurham, who was unable to be there due to ill health. James wrote: I would so much like to have been with you. Keith has been a rock on which St Margaret’s has, for so many years, relied.

Peter Stratton then spoke on behalf of all members of the church, past and present, picking up on that theme of the church relying not just on Keith but also on Ann: What service booklet? Ask Keith. Where’s the nativity set? Ask Keith. When does the cross go back in the shed? Ask Keith. What happens about flowers for the wedding? Ask Ann. Having thanked them both for their dedication, commitment and hard work over the last twenty (and more) years Peter presented them with two pictures, one of the church and one of the watermill, a vase with flowers and John Lewis voucher for a not insignificant amount of money. Thank you to everyone who made a contribution to this fund.

After thank you’s from Keith and Ann, and a kiss between the two of them, Keith dismissed the congregation in the usual way: Go in peace to love and serve the Lord.

In reality, we only got as far as the churchyard where we were greeted with free-flowing wine and copious amounts of food. Once everyone had a glass in their hands we toasted the good health of Keith and Ann and gave them three rousing cheers to wish them well.

It is a testimony to their leadership and ministry at St Margaret’s that Jack and Lady Anne Eyston from Mapledurham House, as well as many people from across the parish and former members of the church gathered for the evening to mark this important event. It is also a testimony to the nature of St Margaret’s Church as it is now that, when I left Mapledurham at 10.45pm, the party was still going on!

Dan Tyndall

Jeremy’s Jottings

Wow, what a week! I’m writing about the Readipop Caversham Festival and the Olympic Torch and Prayer Baton Relay that have taken place recently.

Sunday July 8th dawned as a glorious day (despite the dismal forecast earlier in the week) and what a great day it turned out to be (even though we had the expected couple of heavy showers!). From 7.00am, tens of volunteers (many from the churches) started to put up tents and signage, sort out staging, sell programmes – all in readiness for the opening of the festival. At just after 11.00am, Churches Together in Caversham (CTC) led the service on the mainstage which was attended by about 300 people and involved contributions from many of our churches. It was great to be able to join together to worship God in maybe new and different ways for some of us, giving us a foretaste perhaps of the diverse nature of worship in heaven.

From 12.00 noon, 30 different bands started playing on the festival stage, floating stage and mainstage including two provided by CTC. Nikki Rogers is an inspiring singer songwriter and Risen Solution are an up and coming local band. Churches Together also ran a very successful performance arena which showcased a local schools choir and various sporting groups from our local community who invited festival goers to participate in their activities. We also provided three thousand free inflatable rides for local children which proved very popular throughout the whole day.

CTC also provided a prayer and information tent, and Christian bookstall, which helped to maintain our presence at the festival. Thanks are due to all who worked so hard from across our parish, and the churches, to enable our contributions to the festival to run so smoothly. Feedback has been very positive and the churches will be considering their potential future involvement with Readipop in the autumn.

Two days later and the Olympic torch relay came to Reading, as did the More Than Gold prayer baton relay to St.Peter’s. The relay has been mirroring the torch’s movement around the UK, and so a number of church leaders came from Oxford bringing their prayers of blessing for the churches here in Reading (such as the prayer below). The following day, as the torch began its journey out of Caversham Court, so a group of three of us from Reading took our prayers in the baton down to the people of Salisbury. These were gratefully received and so the prayer baton continued on down to Weymouth, and so on and so forth, culminating in what will be its arrival in London on July 27th.

To mark the opening ceremony of the Olympic Games that day, all three churches will be ringing their bells at 08:12 a.m. so if you are up and around, you might like to listen out for them or better still, why not come down to St John’s at 8.30am or St Peter’s at 9.00 a.m. to pray for the Games and for our nation.

Jeremy Tear

Comfort Zones

When asked to write something about the Caversham Festival I had thought to write something witty, a bit clever, maybe following my ‘view from the pulpit’(Westminster Abbey) with a ‘view from the tent flap’ or call it ‘loitering within tent!’ But for me there has never been anything funny about tents, tents and I do not get on and anyone coming near me that Sunday would probably have found me a bit irritable-I’m sorry to say!

Back in the winter at some cold January meeting I had heard myself say rather impetuously ‘’I’ll be responsible for the prayer and information tent at the festival’’. July seemed such a long way away and I hoped the idea might grow on me! Over the years I have envied people who talk about going to ‘Green Belt’ ‘New Wine’ They sound like wonderful Christian festivals filled with brotherly love and I almost get carried away until someone spoils it and mentions that they take their tent – what a shame! I know you can get b&b but it’s not the same and you certainly wouldn’t want to admit it to anyone!

No tents are out of my comfort zone!

What are comfort zones?

It is natural and normal for human beings to drift toward comfort. Most of us return over and over again to what is familiar or routine, easily falling into comfortable habits that over time can create a sense of complacency and boredom – essentially very little growth of ourselves, better known as entropy or decay. I guess we so easily get like this in church when we come week after week, sit in the same pew, pray the same prayers, sing the same hymns. We don’t often look at the bigger picture examine the places where comfort zones can distract from what we want our life to be about. Comfort zones are neither “good” or “bad,” they are just comfort zones; because after all, we are just human. Here is the key question to ask yourself: Is this comfort zone serving me and my bigger picture or not serving me and my bigger picture. There is no judgment attached to our comfort zones, but the key to a successful bigger picture in our lives is to be aware of our comfort zones – unexamined comfort zones can cost us our own success. Hopefully Christians feel that they are on a spiritual journey and because of that we need to know where we are on that journey-are we stuck? To answer that question comfort zones have to be tackled in one way or another-how would you go about it?

It was really good to see so many people from St Peters at the open air act of worship at the festival and one or two of them told me that they had felt way out of their comfort zones. ‘’Why do people want to wave their arms around like that!’’ , ‘’How can ‘rock music’ worship God!’’ ‘’How can you worship with all that row going on!‘’ But they had come, taken a chance not just grumbled about the whole thing. I think several people were actually proud of themselves for taking a step out of their comfort zones!

Comfort zones exist in every area in our lives. The key is to be aware of them and examine which comfort zones may not be serving our current goals. Which comfort zones are preventing you from creating change? Is God calling you to something new and you’re holding back?

In order to determine the answers to these questions, first, explore your comfort zones. Then, determine the solution to feeling stuck in your routine. Are you willing to move beyond the known into the unknown? Is the change you desire worth the discomfort of leaving what is familiar? No one can answer these questions but you.

As for me I have decided to totally ignore what I have just written as there is nothing in the world that will ever get me back into a tent. I know I hate tents, God knows I hate tents and that they are out of my comfort zone and that is where they are going to stay for ever and ever. Amen

Marion Pyke