Ministry Letters

Holidays and Holy Days


August has been the traditional month for holidays when the schools have broken up and the seaside – or a foreign destination – beckons.  But the balance was shifted several years ago when the August Bank Holiday was shifted from the first Monday in the month to the last and later the other Bank Holidays were altered:  Whit Monday to the last Monday in May and the introduction of another at the beginning of the same month to coincide with Labour Day.  This year we have had the additional Bank Holiday for the Royal Wedding and next year we shall celebrate the Queen’s Diamond Jubilee; there has also been the call for another day off later on – perhaps linked with Trafalgar Day (21st October) – although that change is unlikely to happen until 2013.

How do you view holidays?  Are they truly times of refreshment and recreation?  We all need a break from time to time but they need to be used positively to ‘recharge the batteries’ and provide fresh insights.  The first definition given is ‘a consecrated time’ which stresses its importance and its link with the Holy Days kept by the Church from the beginning.

The chief festival has always been Easter (not Christmas) because it is a reminder of the Resurrection of Jesus; indeed every Sunday is a weekly commemoration of that key event, described in the Prayer Book as ‘Easter Day on which the rest depend’.   In 321 when the Emperor Constantine converted to Christianity he decreed that Sunday should be a general holiday.  Not for nothing have people want to safeguard that principle with the ‘Keep Sunday Special’ campaign even though it has since been eroded with Sunday shopping and countless other activities.

Nevertheless, we would do well to reclaim our Holy Days and rejoice in our name days (if we are fortunate to be named after a saint commemorated in the Calendar).  In our local churches we have always been glad to keep our Patronal festivals (at St Mary’s we have usually observed the Nativity of Our Lady on 8th September - or the Sunday following - and at St Andrew’s we have kept 30th November).    More details will be given next month about the Gift Day on Saturday 10th September and the special service the next day.  There is a rhythm in the liturgical year,

In the meantime, I wish you all a good holiday which will bring inspiration and the opportunity to discover new places and bring illuminating ideas to bear.   And if any have ‘Significant Birthdays’ let them be occasions of celebration!   Next month will see the end of 10 happy years as your parish priest.

Thomas Christie

Green Matters



As we approach our annual Wansford Horticultural Show (which I am sure will prove as popular and successful as ever - although we shall sadly miss Harold Wingrove’s contributions over many years: I still have one of his magnificent onions!) it was timely that a friend of mine  should recently remind me of the importance of going green.


It is now widely accepted that we face three major problems:

  1. An electrical energy shortfall in the UK by 2016 or so.
  2. Peak oil.  A lifetime which assumes oil will continue to be cheap and plentiful is deluded.
  3. Climate change, whether or not brought on by man.


Can we do anything at a local level?  Will it make any difference?  What help is there around in our villages or indeed on the internet?


Perhaps we might start by considering these suggestions: Buy second hand.  Make do and mend.  Wash clothes at 30 degrees.  Dry clothes outside wherever possible.  Make a positive effort to shop locally (we are much blessed with our village shops and Post Office.)  Eat seasonal veg.  Eat less meat.  Grown your own veg and fruit. Compost waste food.  Turn down the thermostat.  Turn appliances off stand-by.  Unplug charge.  Insulate your home.  Change to low energy light bulbs (not the most popular amongst many people but increasingly essential!)  Use rechargeable batteries.  Get on a bike.  Car share.  Take the bus and train.  Use the library.  Learn a new domestic skill.  Walk!


These are some of the suggestions you might like to take seriously as you do your own researches into


  • Energy
  • Travel and Work
  • Recycling
  • Food and Household supplies
  • Other stuff
  • Water


Although I haven’t been able to do very much recently because of the treatment I have been receiving, I know that Audrey is delighted to have recently installed a second raised bed for vegetables which promises a good harvest! 


Thomas Christie

Learning from encounters



Over the years I have discovered that fresh experiences are just round the corner, so long as you are open to explore and wonder without having made your mind up about the eventual outcome before setting out on the journey.  This is as true when making new relationships as when rekindling old friendships, a discovery that has been borne in on me in recent months with contacts through letters and emails from around the world. 


I have also learnt the value of careful reading, linked with Scripture and the opportunities given by looking again at the Bible in the light of the 400th anniversary of the King James (or Authorised) Version.  Two books in particular are worth commending.  The first, Barefoot Disciple by Stephen Cherry, was the Archbishop of Canterbury’s Lent Book. It makes an appeal for openness and generosity and includes the injunction to give up grumbling (not just for Lent!); it ends with a very moving account of the death of the author’s father.


The second, Wording a Radiance – Parting Conversations on God and the Church, gives reflections from Daniel Hardy during the last six months of his life in conversation with his daughter (a priest and a psychotherapist), his son-in-law (the Regius Professor of Divinity at Cambridge)  and one of his oldest friends (a Jewish professor in the University of Virginia).  There is an account of his remarkable experiences during a pilgrimage to the Holy Land where the light came flooding in and he was filled with a deep sense of gratitude.  He discovered that ‘things and people knit together in the divine abundance’ as he ‘allowed the divine to flood in without inhibition.’   There was one special concept that resonated with me; that of Jesus walking.  ‘He was walking, step by step through the land, and after every set of steps, he met someone, stood by someone, one to one, and in some way he touched and healed each one.  Jesus’ healing is unexpected because he comes in the manner of a fellow human being but heals as God, bringing not only physical healing, but transformation at every level of the inner being.’   


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All members of our congregation are invited to share in the Ascension Day Eucharist at Nassington on 2nd June at 7.30 pm.  I have been asked to preach and there will be refreshments afterwards.


The Feast of Pentecost (Whitsunday) on 12th June is a celebration of the birthday of the Church.  The Parish Communion will be at St Mary’s at 10 am and elsewhere in ‘Living Villages’ you will see the notice of the Friends’ Cream Tea Party in the afternoon (by courtesy of David and Dora Baker).  I hope to see as many as possible at both events.


Thomas Christie


Looking ahead


At the Annual Parochial Church Meeting on Sunday 10th April Paul Tate and Alan Jones were re-elected churchwardens for St Mary’s and Stuart Foreman for St Andrew’s. Anne Castellano has had to resign because of pressure of work (but remains on the PCC); however, Liz Kemp was elected in her place.  Reports were given on the work at both churches and it is hoped that sound systems will shortly be installed.  The organ at St Andrew’s will soon be refurbished and plans are afoot for a new porch and lavatory at St Mary’s.  A start has been made by the City Council on the repair of the boundary wall at St Mary’s. 

Tributes were paid to Harold Wingrove and Leonard Oakley who had both done so much to maintain church life over the years; it was like the passing of an era.  Special appreciation was given to our treasurer, Judith Rogers, who had one of the busiest years on record.  Her accounts with the annual report, along with the revised Church Electoral Roll and a list of the Parochial Church Council members, are posted in both churches.

I ended by quoting Archbishop Rowan’s reflection from his intriguing book on the Desert Fathers, Silence and Honey Cakes:

‘The church is meant to be supremely a community of persons.  It is a place for distinctive vocations to be discovered in such a way that they are a source of mutual enrichment and delight, not threat.  It is a place where real human difference is nourished.  I don’t just mean the obvious fact that the church has to be a place of welcome for all races and cultures, but that it must know how to work with the grain of different personal gifts and histories.  A healthy church is one where there is diversity in this respect, with plenty of bizarre characters.’   I like the idea of ‘bizarre characters’; we delight to have them in our parish!   

I hope to reach my 80th birthday in August when I shall have been your parish priest for the past ten years – after that we shall have to see!  Your prayers have been most welcome at this time.

We are grateful to the Friends for their frugal lunches in Lent and we now ask your support for Christian Aid Week (15-21 May) with its aim to help people in poverty out of poverty.  Special emphasis will be given at the service on Sunday 22nd May.

Launde Abbey extends a special invitation to its Open Day on 30th May (10 am to 4.30 pm) when the guest speaker will be John Bell of the Iona Community. It will be a day of fun and festivities for young and old to celebrate the restored and renewed retreat house.

Thomas Christie 

Easter for Encouragement


Thomas Christie


With the cataclysm of disasters that have engulfed our world in the past month, it would be fatally easy simply to bemoan the human tragedies and retreat from it all, thinking that nothing can be done.   But in the midst of seemingly impossible situations, we have seen great courage and a determination to restore an order which seemed lost for ever.  The human spirit will not be quenched.

 That is why it is imperative to share the Christian message that ‘Easter is for encouragement’, offering a realistic hope that death is not the last word.  Despite all that is thrown at us, we believe in a God who is totally involved in our human predicament by identifying himself with suffering and death through Jesus and making it possible to look beyond at the new life that comes from him; ‘there is a cross in the heart of God but there is also the promise of resurrection and renewal.’

 The services for Holy Week and Easter (listed inside the front cover) provide an opportunity to stand with all the disciples of every time and place and share in the love that gathers together and rebuilds all the brokenness, all the lifelessness, all the longing of yesterday’s living into a real and lasting hope.  You may find this prayer helpful:

 May the risen Christ who showed his wounds to his disciples

 come to you to give you that healing of your wounds

 which will be for the strengthening of your life with him

 and to the glory of his name.


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All are invited to the Annual Parochial Church Meeting on Sunday 10th April, following the Parish Communion at 10 am when there will be elections to the PCC and for churchwardens at both churches.  Reports will be given of progress in the past year and plans for the future. There will be no sermon that day; we aim to finish by 12 noon.


Congratulations to Stanley and Joyce Chambers who have already celebrated their diamond wedding and are both attaining their 90th birthdays – all within a month or two!  We rejoice with them.


Thomas Christie

Leonard Oakley - an apprecaition


Thomas Christie


It was appropriate that our dear friend and ecumenical colleague, Leonard Oakley, should leave this earthly life in the Week of Prayer for Christian Unity.  His whole life and ministry within the Methodist Church steadfastly placed others before himself, and mission and unity were at the heart of all that he did.

When I came to Wansford and Thornhaugh as the non-stipendiary parish priest in September 2001 Leonard had already been carefully looking after the midweek service for some time.  I was delighted when he said that he was willing to continue to take Morning Prayer (using Common Worship) and he faithfully stayed the course to the end.  Recently he announced that he had taken over 500 services in this voluntary capacity: his thoughtful talks were always well researched and he was glad to share his biblical knowledge with a light touch.  The Friends will be particularly grateful for his ministrations over many years.

In the wider community he served as the vice-chairman of Wansford Parish Council and was chaplain to the Royal British Legion, preaching regularly year by year at the annual remembrance service.  His time in the Army, particularly in Palestine, (before his training for the ministry) was a deeply formative part of his life.

Shirley and Leonard came to the village for their retirement but they both played a very active part and showed a keen interest in people; they had a true pastoral heart which was not confined to denominational boundaries.  We greatly appreciated their commitment to the wider church which had been nurtured by their understanding of John and Charles Wesley.

Leonard always loved music and was a founder member of the choir, glad to participate as often as he could.  He knew the hymns off by heart and ‘O thou who camest from above’ was one of his favourites.  The last two verses sum up his affirmation:

Jesus, confirm my heart’s desire

To work, and speak, and think or thee;

Still let me guard the holy fire,

And still stir up thy gift in me.


Ready for all thy perfect will,

My acts of faith and love repeat,

Till death thy endless mercies seal,

And make my sacrifice complete.


Our love and prayers go out to Shirley and the family as they prepare for the funeral at Barnhill Methodist church in Stamford.


Thomas Christie


Read, mark. learn




Since the beginning of the year there can be few who are not aware that 2011 marks the 400th anniversary of the Authorised Version of the Bible (now frequently referred to as the ‘King James Bible’).  There have been programmes on the radio giving its history and extended readings by an accomplished team of young actors; there was been a dramatic presentation in our Cathedral at the beginning of last month and a wonderful exhibition has now been mounted in the University Library at Cambridge entitled ‘Great and Manifold Blessings: The Making of the King James Bible’ (it runs until 18th June and is well worth seeing).

Nearer home, we shall be sharing in the Diocesan Lent Course, ‘Read, mark, learn’, which takes its title from the Collect for Bible Sunday and is based on Canon Jonathan Baker’s booklet ‘Attending to Scripture’ (available from the Cathedral bookshop).  We aim to meet every Wednesday afternoon in Lent at 2.30 pm, starting on 16th March in Church House, Bridge End, and making use of other venues later as announced.  The subjects of the five sessions are:

  • The people of the book
  • The authority of Scripture
  • Meditating on God’s word
  • Christ, the centre of Scripture
  • Entering God’s story

The aim is to help people grow in an increased awareness of Scripture as the living word of God; it is not something preserved in aspic from a bygone age.  I would hope that fresh understanding will rekindle our wish to discover what one translator in 1611 described as ‘that inestimable treasure which excelleth all the riches of the world’.

Our bishop has commended the course with these words: ‘The Bible is central to our Christian faith and has played a major part in shaping western culture.  But many of us have grown less familiar with its riches.  This course will help us to make better use of the Scriptures so that we can be more effective disciples of Christ and play our full part in his purposes for the world.’

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I give advance notice that this year the Annual Parochial Church Meeting will be held on Sunday 10th April at St Mary’s after the Parish Communion.  This is an attempt to inform more people and invite them to share in the planning for the parish’s future. The meeting should last not more than an hour.  There are currently some vacancies on the PCC.  The Church Electoral Roll (displayed on the church noticeboard) is being revised and any resident who is baptized and over 16 can apply for membership and then is eligible to vote at the APCM.

Thomas Christie


Waiting for God


Thomas Christie

Waiting for God

As I write there are still five weeks to Christmas, yet the advertisements on television and in the press have been insistently clamouring for our attention for several months.  They have a similar message: indulge yourselves (or others) and buy now; Christmas is for spending – even more than for giving.  Instant satisfaction seems to be all that matters.

However, the Advent season that precedes Christmas is about waiting, spending some time in thinking about what really matters – traditionally called ‘The Last Things’.  Recently I came across this poem-prayer:

Loving Lord, we are still waiting.

Advent reminds us that we are perched between memory and dream.

The memory of your first coming.

The dream of your second coming.

 Loving Lord, that is why we need Advent

to re-source ourselves,

to take us back to you as the source and goal

of all we are born to be.

And the essence of it all, Lord,

is that delicate balance

of being still and being able to wait.

Only by a constantly renewed return

to you as source and centre of stillness

can there bed an urgent opening up

to all that has to be undergone, sweated through,

suffered and worked at in the waiting

for the completion of your kingdom.

 It’s not easy, but it is essential if we are to play our part in transforming society, the world – and ourselves – to bring peace and justice to all.  For this is the Christmas message which we long to share as we invite everyone to a deeper celebration of the services listed on the opposite page. 

 A happy Christmas to you all!

 Thomas Christie

'Do not be afraid!'


Thomas Christie

‘Do not be afraid!’

Our preparations for Remembrance Sunday this year coincide with the much trailed publication of the Strategic Defence and Security Review’s report entitled ‘A Strong Britain in an Age of Uncertainty’.  Inevitably it is being criticized on many fronts – not least from those who wish to maintain their own corner – but it clear that some reform and restructuring must be done.  It is just that it is so difficult to determine priorities in an order of importance.

When the four main threats were set forth as terrorism, cyber warfare, natural disasters and international military crises one could only sympathize with the Home Secretary when she was pressed on the Today programme to put them in a dubious order of merit.  Where do you start?  Will it vary from day to day?  It is almost impossible to determine, for we have experienced all four calamities in varying degrees during these recent years.

Somehow I felt we had been this way before.  I was reminded of the last book in the Bible, The Revelation to John otherwise known as The Apocalypse (a transliteration of the Greek name for ‘Revelation’); this is a highly symbolic tract for the times written before the end of the first century (some believe that parts of it, if not all, were composed shortly before Nero’s death, between AD 68 and 70.)  There we have, in chapter 6, mention of the famous ‘Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse’ – Pestilence (or internal strife), War, Famine and Death: they have been immortalized also in two films (the first was a silent movie starring Rudolph Valentino) and many books.  These ‘horsemen’ still continue to ride today.

It is understandable that many are fearful and think the only answer is to retreat into a bunker.   However, I continue to take encouragement from the words of Archbishop Rowan, reflecting on his experiences of being in New York at the time of the airplane attack on the Twin Towers on 9/11 in 2001:  ‘The only finally adequate response to terror and evil is to gather ourselves … to reach down into what feeds the roots of our spirit, trusting that justice, mercy and joy are never going to be silenced or paralysed.’

Thomas Christie

'And now for the Commercial ...'


Thomas Christie

‘And now for the commercial…’

These words invariably form part of my introductory welcome, when I speak to those present at our weddings before the bride arrives at St Mary’s and St Andrew’s.   After reminding them about when to take photographs and throw confetti, I invite the guests to give thanks for this particular wedding - or their own - by making a donation which can help us maintain the church buildings and continue serving the community.  In recent months we have been greatly supported in this way; two recent gifts from residents in Wansford resulted in the new curtain by the main door at St Mary’s and the coverings for the cushion seats.  We are deeply appreciative of this generosity and also of those who worked so hard to raise a considerable sum over the Festival weekend through the tombola at the Show and the Ceilidh in the evening.   

Together with the Gift Day offerings and the collections taken at the occasional offices, our funds are in a reasonably healthy state.  However, I should like to encourage more regular contributions so that we can complete our projects.  This next year we hope to install sound systems in both churches, redecorate St Andrew’s and provide a lavatory at St Mary’s, but we do need support from the wider community.  What has been achieved so far would not have been possible were it not for the grants from the Landfill Tax, ably managed at a local level by the Thornhaugh Environmental Association (TEA); it has been a wonderful combined effort.

It can also help if people remember the church in their wills by leaving a specific sum for the upkeep of our beautiful parish churches.  The following is a form of bequest for those who may kindly wish to make a gift by will or codicil:  I hereby give and bequeath to the Parochial Church Council of Thornhaugh and Wansford the sum of £….. free of duty, and I direct the same should be paid to the Honorary Treasurer thereof for the time being, and that the receipt shall be a good and sufficient discharge of the same.’    More details can be provided by our Treasurer, Mrs Judith Rogers, 1 Robinswood, Wansford, PE8 6JQ (Tel: 783441).  

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Pause for reflection: ‘When people say they have not anything to give for good causes, they are as a rule telling the truth.  They have nothing to give because they have already spent everything.’ James Denney.