Archives for October 2020
From the Vicarage
On the 24th October, the hour went back, and darkness closed in around us as the nights became longer. It is too easy to look on the end of October and beginning of November with a touch of despair; fallen leaves, dampness, fog, and rain. The church has traditionally associated the end of the year with the end of life. On the 1st November, we celebrate the festival of All Saints’, and we commemorate the faithful departed the next day, Monday, 2nd November. The festival of All Saints’ and the Commemoration of the Faithful Departed are meant to shed light at the beginning of these dark days. All Saints’ helps us to call to mind the ordinary people from ages past who lived a Godly life. Few of them held important positions in life and their names do not appear on any official role of honour. They are not canonised saints. Many lived in obscurity, died unknown, and all memory of them has faded. Their lives are not marked by any great occurrence. God alone remembers them and the good works they have performed. They are the ordinary people of life. People who in their daily lives have tried to live the Christian life to the full. Like each one of us, they experienced the trails of growing up, the tensions and frustrations of living with others, and the normal difficulties and uncertainties of life. They had to cope with their own personal problems and weaknesses. But, however great their difficulties and faults, they accepted that God loved them and they relied on the strength of that love more than anything else; the way they lived their lives was more important than the recognition they attained.
The Festival of All Saints’ and The Commemoration of the Faithful Departed should give us fresh inspiration to continue taking up our cross daily, and to follow Christ. We too can strive to live the Christian life to the full. Heaven is within our reach. These festivals remind us that holiness of life is not for the privileged few but what God expects of all of us. Holiness is about bringing the Spirit of Christ into our lives; it is about doing ordinary things well. The command of Jesus, “Be perfect as your heavenly Father is perfect,” is addressed to everyone. We are called to reflect something of the holiness of God himself in the way we live our life.
With my love and prayers.
Sermon St Eustachius 9.45 Sunday 18 October 2020 Luke the Evangelist (19after Trinity)
Isaiah 35v3-6 Psalm 147v1-7 2 Timothy 4v5-17 Luke 10v1-9
May I speak in the name of God the Father, Son and Holy Spirit, Amen
As this morning we celebrate the festival of Saint Luke the evangelist, I want to ask you, ‘what do you know about Luke’?
Perhaps your first answer is that he wrote the gospel that carries his name, and that he then went on to write the book of Acts. If that is so, and the early church fathers like Jerome and Eusebius thought it to be so, then Luke wrote over a quarter of the text of our New Testament. But what else comes to mind?
Perhaps that he travelled with Saint Paul on mission, and was described by Paul in Colossians (4v14) as a ‘physician’ and one of his faithful companions.
Many scholars believe Luke was indeed a Greek physician who lived in Antioch in what is now Turkey, and so was most likely a gentile Christian. Early church tradition says that Luke died at the age of 84 in Boeotia in the northeast of the gulf of Corinth in Greece, and that he may have been martyred by being hung from an olive tree. His tomb was then located at nearby Thebes, and his relics later transferred to Constantinople in AD 357.
Perhaps one surprising tradition is that Luke, besides being a physician and historian, was also a gifted artist, and the first icon writer. Especially in the Orthodox faith Luke is credited with icons of the virgin Mary and child, and the Saint Thomas Christians of India claim they still have one which Thomas took to India with him in the first century.
There is in the Armenian quarter of Old City of Jerusalem, the small and ancient Syrian Orthodox Church of Saint Mark, which claims to be the location of the last supper and the home of the evangelist Mark and his mother Mary. I have seen there, a painting on leather of Mary and the infant Jesus, supposedly done by Luke, but experts date it to much later Byzantine times.
We have read in our gospel that Jesus sent out seventy of his disciples to go on ahead of him to ‘heal the sick, and to proclaim that the kingdom of God has come near’. A very good message for our time as well. One of the early church fathers, Epiphanius, Bishop of Salamis, thought that Luke was one of those seventy apostles, but that to my mind is pure speculation. Our reading however, does contains a number of important lessons for us this morning.
Jesus could see that even in the religious society of his time there was little substance and that ‘the harvest was plentiful’, but that there were few labourers to reap that harvest. That sounds more than ever like the times in which we live. How necessary it is for us to pray to the Lord for labourers for the harvest.
To pray that God will raise up more labourers in our time, like the evangelist of old, labourers from our churches who are called and anointed for mission. Let us give thanks for Fiona, who has recently joined us to do just that in the fields of growing young families as our town grows and develops.
Labourers who like John the Baptist and Jesus, will call people to repent, and as Peter said to the crowd at Pentecost, ‘repent, be baptised and filled with the Holy Spirit’.
Clearly a call to that work in not easy. It needs the leading of the Holy Spirit and the exercise of a strong faith. Those seventy were called to go out and rely on God’s provision as they were to take no purse or bag. There are many missionaries who today still live such a life of faith, relying upon God to provide for their needs through the generosity of God’s people. Maybe you know someone like that, and can encourage them in their essential and sacrificial work through your prayers and support.
When writing to Timothy, Paul could see that his active time of mission may have been drawing to a close, “I am already being poured out as a libation, and the time of my departure has come”. Since his ‘Damascus Road’ experience, Paul had given himself tirelessly to the service of the gospel, much of it at his own expense, he still worked at his trade as a tent maker. And what an epitaph he wrote for himself, “I have fought a good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith”. May that be said for each of us when our time comes.
Our Christian pilgrimage, our walk with Jesus our Lord, may have been, may still be, like ‘a fight’. A fight against the distractions and deceits of the materialism of this transient world, this physical world in which we now live, those attractions that do seem so attractive to us but must not be allowed to become our idols. But what may not be so obvious, is the fight that we as Christians also face in the spiritual realm. Peter in his first epistle (1Peter 5v8) reminds us that we must, “Be sober, be watchful, for your adversary the devil prowls around like a roaring lion, seeking someone to devour”.
So then, do we live out our lives taking care to watch out for, and to recognise those attacks that come from the evil one, and how do we then respond? That fight is another good reason for us to constantly bare one another up in prayer.
Paul could also see that the Christian life had been like a race for him, a race for which there was to be a prize at the end, ‘a crown of righteousness’. Are we running in that same race as Paul? Are we living out our lives as ambassadors for our God, and trusting to hear those beautiful words from Jesus our master (Mtt 25v21), “Well done, good and faithful servant; you have been faithful over a little, I will set you over much; enter into the joy of your master.”
I for one, and I trust you also, do hope to hear those words, and to indeed enter into the inexpressible joy of our Lord. So how do we ensure that we run the particular race set before each one of us successfully?
Some words from the writer of the epistle to the Hebrews may help us to run a successful race (12v1-2).
“Therefore, let us lay aside every weight, and sin which clings so closely, and let us run with perseverance the race set before us”. Fortunately the verse does not end there, leaving it just up to us alone to find strength to run in the race. We are told to, “Look unto Jesus, the pioneer and perfecter of our faith”.
How essential it is for us as Christians to walk our daily lives aware of the presence of our Lord with us. Let us remember the words of psalm 73 (v23) “Yet I am always with you; you hold me by my right hand”.
And I wonder if we feel like Paul that “we have kept the faith”? Maybe we have had some ‘wobbles’ along the way; maybe we have had times of great faith when we could say to the mountain, ‘be removed’ and it would have removed, but maybe we have also experienced some times of doubt.
Those may have been such times when we were driven to the Lord (Mark 9v24), like the man who came to Jesus with a son having a dumb spirit, and said to Jesus, “Lord help my unbelief”. And what was the Lord’s encouraging reply? “All things are possible to him who believes”. So let us hold firm our faith and trust in the Lord, He is always with us even when we doubt.
Paul experienced God’s constant presence as he walked his pilgrimage life, because he maintained his trust in the one true God, creator of the universe. The God whom we too have come to believe in and to trust, a God who knows each of the million, million, million stars by name, and yet knows you and me.
I trust that we all hope, and look forward with confidence to the promised coming time, the day when our God will come to judge this forlorn, cruel and unjust world in righteousness. Not to judge as we so often do with only half the truth before us, but as Isaiah says (Is 11v3-4), “He-Jesus- shall not judge by what his eyes see, or decide by what his ears hear; but with righteousness he shall judge the poor, and decide with equity for the meek of the earth”. As Abraham said, “Shall not the judge of all the earth do right” (Gen 18v25).
It will be a time when God will heal the brokenhearted, and bind up all their wounds. A time when God will lift up the poor, open the eyes of the blind, and the lame shall certainly leap for joy, as the salvation of God is fully realised. I hope the thought of that time sets your pulse racing, it certainly does mine.
Let us then make sure this morning, that as we come together around the table of our Lord, to remember him in the breaking of the bread, we also allow Jesus, as he did with those two disciples at Emmaus on the first Easter day, to ‘make Himself known’, to reveal himself afresh, when we break the bread together. Let us look to be strengthened with this spiritual food, the bread of life, and may we also join with Paul, the Holy Spirit and the bride in crying ‘come’, for like them we ‘long for his appearing’.
So to return to Luke, like all the four evangelists, they each have a special symbol, and in Luke’s case what is it? Yes, it is that of a winged Ox or bull. Remembering the agrarian culture of New Testament times, that symbol would have been associated with sacrifice, service and strength. So for us as Christians it reminds us that the call to follow Jesus, our Lord and master, is a call that leads us into a life of sacrifice and service, only made possible through the strength of God’s indwelling Holy Spirit.
Let us pray; the shorter collect for this 19th Sunday after Trinity:-
Faithful Lord, whose steadfast love never ceases
and whose mercies never come to an end:
grant us the grace to trust you
and to receive the gifts of your love,
new every morning, in Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen
The Parish Office, 5a Plymouth Road, Tavistock, Devon PL19 8AU Tel: 01822 616673 Email: email@example.com
Dear Brothers and Sisters in Christ
As I write this letter the Government has just brought in further regulations for Churches to help tackle the Coronavirus pandemic. The following letter from the Archbishops of Canterbury and York has also been received. Their letter is reproduced below:
“Dear Sisters and Brothers in Christ,
It is clear that we now have to gear up for a second wave of the coronavirus. This is hard. Many people were starting to believe things could return to normal. They can’t. But neither are we in the same place as before. We have learned a great deal. In our leadership of the Church and in the witness we show to our nation we need to be determined, resilient and hopeful. We will need to be more critical in our response to restrictions that are above and beyond government regulations, helping the church at the local level, in parish and diocese, steer a course that is marked by responsible action towards each other, care for the most vulnerable, and witness for the poor and disadvantaged who are suffering disproportionately. All this is the nature of love.
Our national situation is much more complicated than it was in March. The divisions are deeper. There is public and reasonable concern about hunger – especially amongst children – and homelessness, with an expected rapid rise in evictions. Domestic violence remains a major issue which is concealed.
We are also in a situation which threatens the recovery from the huge decline in the economy in the second quarter. The most vulnerable to this second wave are the small companies who employ the most people, and especially those in the hospitality industry. It will be for us and others to encourage the banks, who received such help in 2009, to be equally merciful to others as the nation was to them. St Matthew 18:23-35 seems highly relevant.
The poor, the elderly and isolated are especially vulnerable. There will be growing nervousness about Christmas, about mental health and many other issues that cannot be considered in this very short letter.
We are called to be responsible, but we are also called to resilience and prophetic speech. We have the networks, long since mobilised, and the partnerships to serve especially the hungry and homeless. Our schools are a particular treasure.
However, there will also be a sense of tiredness; the weariness which comes with dealing with yet another threat and difficulty. To face this, we must continue to encourage one another and bear one another’s burdens. We must in our meetings be transparent with each other, able to say difficult things in a way that avoids mistakes being made through unwilling acquiescence to the perceived view of the majority.
Most of all we need to draw close to Christ, and continue to offer the hope and stability of the gospel. It is this gospel joy, even in the darkest times, that alone can help us through this crisis, bringing hope and an eternal perspective to the very pressing trials of the moment.
We are so grateful for our partnership with you in this work. Do feel free to share this letter as you see fit. And please be assured of our prayers. In the peace of Christ,
The Most Revd & Rt Hon Justin Welby
The Most Revd & Rt Hon Stephen Cottrell”
Annual Parochial Church Meeting
At the Annual Parochial Church Meeting held on the 11th October Mary Whalley was re-elected as Churchwarden. My congratulations to her. My thanks to Hilary Sanders for her support and tremendous hard work as Churchwarden over the last 6 years. Hilary has worked tirelessly, often behind the scenes, to ensure that our Church life runs smoothly. I am extremely grateful indeed to her and will miss her now that her second term of office has come to an end. We now have a vacancy for Churchwarden, please do speak to me if you feel you could take on this role or if you would like to know about what is involved. My thanks also to retiring members of the PCC, Edna Bennallack, Barbara and Tony Miller, and George Mudge for all their care, diligence and hard work as Council members. We welcome Scott Angell, Liz Bastin and Fiona Lang as new members. The meeting also thanked Eileen Hooper for overseeing “Mission of the Month”, and Nick Clarke for his work as Fabric Officer. Both Eileen and Nick have stepped down. Again, if you feel you could take on either role, please do speak to me.
We continue to review our patterns of worship and private prayer in all our four churches, and to follow Diocesan COVID guidelines and update our risk assessments as Government guidelines are amended in order to remain COVID secure. The Sunday Eucharist at 9.45 am has now returned to the Nave, and although numbers remain restricted, it has been possible to accommodate more people than previously. Sadly, congregational singing is still not permitted. We have also been able to re-introduce the Mid-week Eucharist on a Wednesday at 10.30 am, again, in the Nave. The Church continues to remain open until 2 pm for private prayer on a Sunday and Wednesday in the Clothworkers Aisle following these services. The arrangements for Weddings (max 15 people) and Funerals (max 30 people) remain unchanged.
Tavistock Food Bank
Following our Harvest Festival service this year we were able to send donations of food to Tavistock Food Bank. Thank you for your generosity in making this possible this year, and for the donations of food and money which are regularly made through our church.
Virtual Vestry Group
For those of you who haven’t seen it yet, I thoroughly recommend our Virtual Vestry Group to you. This can be found on the St Eustachius’ Facebook page and on the website. My thanks to Sarah and her messy team for all their work.
Commemoration of the Faithful Departed
I am planning a service at the beginning of November in Tavistock Parish Church as a special Act of Remembrance for those who have been bereaved. At the service those who have died recently, and in years past, will be remembered by name and candles will be lit as a symbol of hope. The service will be simple and will include well known music although, sadly, congregational singing is not permitted at the moment. The service will be held on Monday, 2nd November 2020, at 7.00pm. Please email if you would like someone remembered by name at the service.
At the time of writing the arrangements remain unclear for the marking of Remembrance Sunday. The likelihood is that the number of participants permitted to attend an outdoor Act of Remembrance will be limited to six. As in previous years I intend to hold a short act of Remembrance within our Sunday Eucharist. This service will begin at 9.30 am. As with all services at the moment, numbers will be restricted.
You may be aware that Cathy, Barbara, Judy and Hilary held a pop-up stall in the churchyard a couple of weeks ago (socially-distanced and sanitised of course) and managed to raise £85 in a couple of very windy hours. More pop-ups are planned after the Wednesday services. Someone will be on duty to ensure hand sanitising, collection of contact details, and control of the queues (well, ever the optimists!), etc. So come along to buy some Christmas presents, many of the items for sale are handcrafted, and you will be supporting St. Eustachius’.
The following stalls will be held from 11.15am – 2pm
Wednesday October 14th – Craft items
Wednesday October 21st – New and nearly new designer clothes
Wednesday 28th – Vintage Green
Wednesday 4th November – Jigsaws & Marmalades & Jams
Wednesday 11th. November – New and nearly new designer clothes
Wednesday 18th November -Vintage Green
Wednesday 25th – November – New and nearly new designer clothes
Wednesday 2nd December – Jigsaws
Christmas Toy Appeal 2020
As in previous years, we will be supporting Tavistock Area Children’s Centre this Christmas by giving them toy vouchers to pass on to families who will be struggling and in need this Christmas.
Donations towards the cost of the vouchers would be welcomed please. Nearer the time, if you would like to support this appeal please would your hand your donation to a churchwarden in an envelope clearly marked TOY APPEAL or make a donation by following the TOY APPEAL link which will appear on the St. Eustachius website.
I will be able to let you know full details of our Christmas services in my November letter and in the Virtual Parish Magazine which appears each month on our website. At the moment planning is still taking place to ensure we remain compliant with Government COVID19 regulations. I hope it will be possible to hold a service on Christmas Eve at 11.30 pm (Midnight Mass) and on Christmas Day at 9.30 am. For those self-isolating, or unable to attend, or in the event of further restrictions, I shall also prepare a Christmas video service for broadcast on the evening of Christmas Eve. If it is possible to do so, our Christmas morning service will also be recorded.
Parish Centre Refurbishment
The Friends’ have now gone through a tender process and obtained three estimates for the refurbishment of the Parish Centre and a contractor has been chosen to undertake the work. It is hoped to start before Christmas. In addition, new chairs are to be purchased. The PCC were updated about this at its September meeting. The project has three key elements. The first is external work to replace the current fibre glass skylights with a clear glass / acrylic material. The second is to renovate the toilets and provide separate, Ladies, Gentlemen and Disabled facilities. The third is the refurbishment of the hall, including plastering of the walls, painting the ceiling in a light colour, the sanding and renovation of the wooden floor and an update of the lighting system. My thanks to Rick Crawford, Judy Hurst, John Collacott, and all the Friends,’ for the tremendous amount of work being undertaken to achieve this refurbishment.
Please continue to share and cascade this letter to anyone you know who has little or no access to email, or our social media sites. It remains vitally important to keep everyone informed of, and involved in, our ongoing Church life. Thank you.
Please stay safe and well and be assured of my continued love and prayers.