In this newsletter:

Arriving at Advent

Advent must mean that Christmas is not very far away. “Groan! I haven’t done my present shopping, or even thought of the list, let alone made plans for Christmas itself.”

As the nights draw in, and daylight becomes sparse, the beacon light of Advent shines brightly to illumine our lives against all the commercial pressures of modern society that wants to locate Christmas as the principle shopping season of the year. You may know that Advent means ‘coming’ or ‘arrival’, and in church we will find our hymns and readings focus on two themes: the first coming of Jesus, and waiting for the second coming when Jesus will come again to fulfil God’s creation.

The church has always seen Advent also as the start of a new church year, which has seasons as a way of telling, learning and reliving the ways of Jesus. But we don’t go round and round the year, year after year, and get nowhere. Like a bicycle wheel, the church year goes round and we move forward with God. From Advent we will go forward with God through Christmas, Epiphany, Lent, Passiontide, Easter and Pentecost. As we travel through these seasons, God is revealed to us in different ways as we encounter the story of God’s people and understand our own story in that light. And in doing so, we see our story as part of God’s bigger project – the building of his Kingdom here on earth. We are not bystanders where God does all the work, but invited to be co-workers with God in his plans to redeem his creation. Year after year, through the seasons, we discover more of God at work in his world, and our invited to be part of God’s project.

So this Advent, as another church year starts, and the light of the coming of Christ shines again, we will light the advent wreath. We will remember the ancient people of our faith, the hope of the Jews that God would not abandon them, the preparation for the coming of the Christ or Messiah of God exemplified by John the Baptist, and the great ‘Yes’ to God of Mary as she accepts willingly her role in the first coming of Jesus. In telling this story again, might we rediscover ourselves in God’s plans for building his Kingdom. Might we invite him to advent, come, arrive in our hearts this year, that we might be ready when God chooses to come and claim his own once again.


Closure of St Margaret’s churchyard

In March 2015 I conducted the burial of a member of the parish in St Margaret’s churchyard. There is perhaps nothing surprising about that, except that to do so, I used the very last plot in the churchyard available to bury a coffin. St Margaret’s is what’s known as an ancient churchyard, having been opened in the medieval period. We cannot be sure how many people are buried there, or precisely where all the coffin are located. But we have engaged some professional advice, and the PCC is confident that the churchyard now has no more space for burials.

In response to this news, St Margaret’s CLT have asked the PCC for permission to begin the legal process to formally close the churchyard to any new coffin burials. This provides the necessary legal protection to remove the common law right of parishioners to be buried in the churchyard of their parish church. An order from the Ministry of Justice to close the churchyard in Mapledurham will only affect coffin burials, and we will be able to continue to use the ashes plots we have available. The PCC has also approved the CLT’s plan to request from the diocese that we extend the number of ashes plots so that these interments can continue into the future.

The process to gain such a closure order is a lengthy one, and will not happen quickly. It is akin to a planning application, and there will be some form of consultation including asking for comments from the relevant parish and district councils.

Clearly this is a pastorally sensitive issue, and some people in our churches will have hoped to have had their coffin buried in Mapledurham. The reality is that the churchyard is full and, even without the closure order, when approached I would have had to state that such a burial was not possible.

It is the CLT’s intention, if and when once closure of the churchyard has occurred, to ask South Oxfordshire District Council to take over the maintenance of the churchyard, including grass cutting and the maintenance of all monuments and headstones. This would parallel the situation with St Peter’s, where reading Borough Council have responsibility for maintaining the churchyard.

Do please get in touch with me to discuss any issues this news raises for you.


Parish fete – Committee chair needed

Please do continue to hold in your prayers the role of overseeing the Church Fete committee. This is an important role for someone, or two people to job share, to ensure the fete committee focus on the task at hand, planning each year’s fete, and co-ordinate the planning with other partners outside our churches.

If you yourself, or someone you know, has some skills in overseeing a committee, and has some spare time to offer over 9 months each year, then do please get in touch with me for an informal discussion.

Without such a person my fear is that, over time, we will lose our focus in putting on the fantastic fete each year, which will badly affect the income the fete generates for each church.



Last summer I had been praying about whether to run an Alpha course, and at a social gathering someone asked me, completely unprompted, whether I had ever heard of Alpha or led one, as she’d like to do it. I took that as a green light from the Lord, and advertised two possible courses, one on Friday mornings and one on Tuesday evenings. To my delight ten people signed up for each course! John Dudley has helped lead the morning course, and Judith Ryder the evening course.

Eating together is a key part of Alpha. On Fridays a cooked breakfast is on offer, and on Tuesday evenings we have two course meals. After eating we watch a 20-25 minute dvd on an aspect of the Christian faith – e.g. Who is Jesus? Why and how should we pray? How can I resist evil? The dvd is followed by a time of open discussion during which people can say anything, ask anything, or just listen. We have had some cracking discussions in both groups this term. (Are some people so evil they can never be forgiven? Do all religions worship the same God? What happens when we die if we are not Christians?…..What would you say – or ask?)

The Away Day is a key part of the course and on 5th November fifteen of us went to St Katharine’s Parmoor, an old mansion – previously a convent – set in beautiful grounds. The focus was on the Holy Spirit. Those who wanted to received prayer and there was time to reflect and wander in the gardens or enjoy the lounge and the log fire.

Has God been at work through Alpha? If so, how? Some of the participants would say they have become very aware of God at work in their lives – some with a tangible sense of his presence, others noticing ‘coincidences’ after praying, some beginning to read the Bible for themselves for the first time, and others more sure of their faith. Some would say Alpha hasn’t changed their thinking at all, but the breakfasts/suppers have been good! Often the fruit of Alpha becomes apparent further down the line. Four of the evening group are being confirmed at St Andrews Caversham on 20th November – Seonaid Dey, Herbert Jan Hammersteen, Jessica Small and Rachael Onec. Do keep them, and all the other group members in your prayers.

And if you fancy the cooked breakfast, do contact me – another course will begin in the New Year!

Penny Cuthbert

PMC – where are we going now?

In the last 12 months we have listened to our congregations and our community, we have shared our bible readings in a new way, we have met together as a parish to start to discern what God is up to here. Now we are starting to move outwards to action in our community.

Following an away day the PCC, the church leadership and PMC steering teams chose a challenge. Briefly, God has shown us a need among the lonely or isolated people in our community and we aim to walk alongside them, building a community where everybody grows in love.

Everyone will have experienced loneliness at some point in their lives. Perhaps you could suggest a focus for our new project or people we could partner in the community. A new team is being formed to discern and enable a more specific challenge which will take place over the next 9 – 12 months. Please share your thoughts with a steering team member.

The steering team meantime will be practising new spiritual disciplines about giving and receiving hospitality and about building relationships with people, listening and paying attention to them. We would like to invite new members for this team. If you are interested please talk to a steering team member and perhaps come along to a steering team meeting to find out more about it.

Catherine Radcliffe

Dates for your diary

December and Christmas events are listed on the Forthcoming Events page and the Parish Calendarwebsite editor.

1 January9.30amParish wide Eucharist at St Peters
8 JanuaryEpiphany celebrated in all churches
15 January6.30pmEpiphany carol service, St Peters
29 JanuaryCandlemas celebrated in all churches
29 January6.30pmChoral Evensong, St Peters
5 February6.30pmEvening Eucharist, St Peters
15 March7.30pmPCC
18 March2.30pmParish spring social
2 April9.30amAPCM, St Johns

Other newsletters are in the newsletter archive