A Christmas Carol

There is something magical about a good story and there are few storytellers as good as Charles Dickens. When he published A Christmas Carol he wished that it would “haunt (our) houses pleasantly”, and that “no one (would) wish to lay it”. The power of his storytelling was that, 172 years later it is still haunting us most pleasantly and far from laying it, we call up its spirit again and again.

The magic of the tale kept an audience enthralled on the evening of December 5 at a one-man rendition given at St Mark’s Church in Hale, Farnham. To be fair, it was not just the tale that had us spellbound, it was the way it was told by Jonathan Jones, who is often seen around Farnham in his guise as Town Crier. On that Saturday he had cast off his green crier’s coat in favour of a red velvet jacket and sat comfortably in an armchair in front of the altar. From here, though he did not stay seated for long, he told us the tale of Ebenezer Scrooge, Bob Cratchit, Tiny Tim, nephew Fred and the three Ghosts – Past, Present and Yet to Come.

It is a famous story which plays unashamedly with our emotions, and Jonathan drew on all its clever devices so much so that I actually found a tiny tear in my eye for dear Tiny Tim, and though I knew the ending well, I was still relieved when… spoiler alert… Scrooge saw the error of his ways.

All of this was told without a note, an impressive feat of memory and acting, with differing voices and even conversations between characters, all the more impressive given that Jonathan is not a professional actor.

After an interval during which mulled wine and homemade mince pies were served, Jonathan was back in his armchair with a set of Christmas poems and stories. He had done his research and gave us the background to poems such as The Night Before Christmas – originally A Visit from St. Nicholas, and written by the American Clement Clarke Moore in 1822. Not all the offerings were as schmaltzy as this one, not certainly the tale of Jabez Dawes, as told in Ogden Nash’s The Boy who Laughed at Santa Claus, nor the truly funny Twelve Days of Christmas by John Julius Norwich which details the rapidly declining romance of Edward and Emily.

The evening was held to raise money for another Emily, likewise in decline, this time Emily, the 103-year-old organ at St Mark’s which is in desperate need of a complete overhaul. The fundraising was clearly important, but what felt equally important was the community coming together for an evening of entertainment in a village venue that seems well suited to such events. I look forward to more soon.

Stella Wiseman

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Pictures by Lesley Shatwell and David M Moore, courtesy of Farnham Herald

Refugees in Farnham & Guildford Diocese

Yesterday Rachel spoke at all our services about the Refugee crisis, and the things that she had learnt at the PEACE event at the Cathedral in October.  She mentioned a couple of ways of keeping in touch with what is happening and what help is required, and the links to those places are here:

Guildford Diocese:  http://www.cofeguildford.org.uk/resources/refugee-help especially details of the kinds of help required for those coming into the Diocese.

Farnham Help for Refugees in UK and Overseas – this is a Facebook Group and will keep you up to date with what is happening locally:  https://www.facebook.com/Farnham-Help-for-Refugees-in-UK-and-Overseas-1503359563295156/?fref=ts


Ever felt like the world is just going too fast?  Is there always too much to do and too little time?  Well, (how do I explain it, this might be awkward …) perhaps you need some time-out.  I know, for so many of us busy people, the last thing we can contemplate is spending time breathing, taking time for ourselves – that’s way too indulgent and what good does it do anyway, that’s not going to solve any problems.  Hang on a minute … “time breathing”?  How hard can that be?  I’m going to breathe anyway, because if I don’t, then I’m really not going to get everything done.

Breathing.  Yes, it’s strange, for most of us, breathing is one of those things which we just let our bodies get on with.  But for over a year now, some folks in St Mark’s have been finding out about breathing Mindfully.  Sitting, focussing on our breath and parking our worries and problems just for a few minutes.  And gradually, our busy, busy minds take a break, take a breather and we are refreshed to carry on with all the stuff of life.

It’s not rocket science.  People have known about Mindfulness for millennia.  Some people might call it a form of prayer, a way of being still and letting God get a word in edgeways.  For others it’s a technique which helps them de-stress.  For still others again, it does nothing and it’s just a load of people sitting in a room breathing – what’s so special about that.  Ah, but … what about you?  Does it work for you?  Would you like to give it a go?

We hold drop-in Mindfulness sessions once a month at St Mark’s.  9.30 am on (usually) the first Monday of the month.  At the moment, they are led by Suzette Jones, the Diocesan Health and Well-being Adviser.  Check out the weekly notice sheets and look for the notices up around our churches, or e-mail me if you would like to go on our mailing list.  The next sessions are Monday, 7 December and 4 January 2016.

Sponsor a Pipe!

‘Emily,’ the pipe organ at St Mark’s Church, Upper Hale, needs your help! She is 103 and in desperate need of a complete overhaul. This work will cost £23,000 as she needs to be dismantled, the leatherworks replaced, the warped wooden parts machined and the 524 pipes cleaned, a handful of them replaced and then she will need to be tuned.

St Mark’s Church are appealing to the community to help save this local treasure by sponsoring a pipe for Christmas. Pipes can be sponsored anonymously or not, and those sponsoring them will be able to write who they are sponsoring it for. They will receive a certificate and the church will display all the names and notes that people write on a ‘Sponsoring a Pipe’ manuscript. There will be a celebratory concert once ‘Emily’ has been restore to which all those who have sponsored a pipe will be invited.

The Reverend Lesley Crawley, a priest at St Mark’s said, “Emily is a beautiful Edwardian pipe organ that is just over 100 years old. She is referred to as ‘Emily’ after her benefactor – Emily Mangles. Sadly, she has been used very rarely over the past three years because after a century of service she is in need of a complete overhaul. Once she is restored then she will be available for community events such as concerts, and for children who are learning the organ will be able to practice on her once again.”

To sponsor a pipe please send the note of who you are dedicating the pipe to and your  donation (payable to The Parish of Badshot Lea and Hale PCC) to St Mark’s Church, Alma Lane, Farnham, GU9 0LT. For further information or to ensure your donation is gift-aided then call the Reverend Lesley Crawley on 01252 820537.

The requested donations for sponsoring a pipe are as follows:

4′ pipe – donation £15.00

8′ pipe – donation £30.00

16′  pipe – donation £60.00

Advent 1 Sermon – I’ll do it tomorrow

Jeremiah 33.14-16
1 Thessalonians 3.9-13
Luke 21.25-36

Christmas shopping? Oh, I’ll do it tomorrow.

Christmas cards, last day for posting? Tomorrow, that’ll be fine, they will get there.

What about all those letters to friends I only ever write to at Christmas? What am I going to say? Oh, I’ll think of something tomorrow.

Yes, I’m too busy right now, I’ll do it all tomorrow.

But there’s rather a lot to do, I’m going to run out of tomorrows if I don’t get myself organised.

Run out of tomorrows … Surely not, there will always be a tomorrow … won’t there?

“There will be signs in the sun, the moon, and the stars, and on the earth distress among nations confused by the roaring of the sea and the waves. People will faint from fear and foreboding of what is coming upon the world, for the powers of the heavens will be shaken.”

We have just heard that in the Gospel reading this morning. Is Jesus describing the day when there is no tomorrow?

The end of the world, Christmas cancelled? I’m not ready for that. I’m looking forward to Christmas. Christmas comes each year. Surely God can’t do this to us?

“Truly I tell you, this generation will not pass away until all things have taken place. Heaven and earth will pass away, but my words will not pass away.”

Look Jesus, you are frightening me now. I’ve got everything planned, I’m not ready of course, but I know how I want things to be. I want carols and mince pies and mulled wine and friends and family and lots of music and presents and Christmas cards. A white Christmas this year too please, but only when everyone has safely got home to their families – we don’t want snow to disrupt all the travel plans.

Some people are completely ready of course and I’ve got no excuse really. The shops have been full of festive Christmas stuff since September. Christmas cakes have been made, puddings stirred. Come on God, don’t spoil our Christmas with all this end of the world stuff.

Wait a minute, let’s stop and think. There! The world didn’t end did it? But it was a close call for we are told that the world might end at any moment. Scientists tell us that an asteroid could hit the earth and wipe out all life – but it hasn’t … yet. The Bible is full of dire, apocalyptic predictions of the Day of Judgement and the earliest Christians believed that it would happen very soon. But two thousand years on and we might be getting a little more relaxed about the time-scale for the end of days.

Today it’s the start of Advent, a time of preparation and waiting. A Christian time when we prepare ourselves for the coming of Jesus, the Messiah. In our OT reading from Jeremiah this morning, we heard that the Jews were waiting for the coming of the Messiah too. Jeremiah reminded the people of the promise God had made them that, “I will cause a righteous Branch to spring up for David; and he shall execute justice and righteousness in the land.”

As Christians, we celebrate the birth of Jesus on 25 December each year. We watch each Sunday as another candle is lit on our Advent wreath and we get ready, keeping on watching and waiting.

It is all about getting our priorities right. Not getting too bogged down in things which gnaw away at our time and which, ultimately are of no use whatsoever. And along with all the festivities and fun and family holiday stuff, Santa Claus, the mince pies, the Christmas trees and decorations, let’s find some time to spend with the one whose birth started the whole celebration.

So, what are we waiting for? Summer’s over for another year and it’s Advent: time to get ready to meet God. We know God’s coming, but if we keep putting things off till tomorrow, we may just run out of tomorrows and we’ll never be ready.

On your marks … get set …


Lesley Shatwell 29/11/15