Seven Churches in South Oxfordshire

From the Rector: Tuesday 20th February 2024

Looking over the wreckage

Dear friends

“If you want to make God laugh,” said Woody Allen, “Tell him your plans.” This is true for institutions as well as individuals. Lanercost Priory in north Cumbria was one of the smaller religious houses, and thus one of the first plundered (or, reformed, if you are an ardent monarchist) by the agents of Henry VIII, who finished off what the Scottish kings had already helped themselves to in cross border raids. The monks were mostly pensioned off under threat of death, some who took the new oath of allegiance were allowed to “repurpose” as parish clergy, and the small monastery was stripped of its assets. The cash, books, plate and buildings went to swell the coffers of the Crown, and local farms and estates were handed out to nearby gentry in exchange for loyalty against any future Scottish incursions. The nave of the abbey church became the parish church for the community, the chancel and cloisters were partly demolished, and the Prior’s guest house was retained as the “new” Vicarage. Today the site, having spent many years in private hands, is once again the property of the Crown, (under the auspices of English Heritage) and the parish of Lanercost worships in the monk’s old nave, while tourists on their way to Hadrians Wall stop off to wander in the ruins of the cloisters round about. Visitors are advised to remove their car aerials upon parking outside the west front, as the cattle grazed on the adjacent sward have have learnt that these are ideal back scratching devices. (I’d always hoped to catch this spectacle, but never have.)

The season of Lent, traditionally forty days of prayer and fasting, gives an opportunity if we are bold enough for a little life appraisal, whether on a personal level, or on a societal one. It is a chance to ask God to show us the truth, as much as we can bear. Looking oveer the wreckage, does anything shine? What can we do about the mistakes? What do we need to let go of, and what must be clung to? What is God saying in the warp and weft of history as it unfolds around us today?

Do join us for the second Sunday in Lent, in gratitude but also penitence for what remains after we humans have done our best, whether in our own lives, or in our workplaces, or in our relationships. We pray for God’s mercy, and his forgiveness.

Worship Services for Sunday 25th February

9.30am Holy Communion at St John’s Stoke Row with Canon Kevin Davies

11am Holy Communion at St Peter and Paul, Checkendon with Canon Kevin Davies.

Midweek zoom service: Wednesday Evensong at 5.00pm  410 935 129

Looking ahead.

As our parish schools return after half term, some advance notice for your diary. Holy Week this year is 24-30th March. Checkendon School’s end of term (Easter) service is on Wednesday of Holy Week, 27th March, at 2pm in Checkendon church. It is a service of holy Communion, and everyone from our church and community is warmly invited to join us.

Maundy Thursday is March 28th, and there will be a Team Service – the holy Communion of the Last Supper – at St John’s Whitchurch Hill, at 7.30pm. The celebrant will be the Revd Dr James Leach, and everyone from across the Team area is welcome.

May the Lord be your guard, and your guide.

Your Rector, Canon Kevin.

PS  if you have four minutes, and need a quick basic refresher as to “what Lent is about” click on the link. It comes with a “cultural advisory” from me, as it is from a US (catholic) source.



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