Your fete needs you!

This year’s Parish Fete will take place on June 15th and we need as many people as possible to get involved.

The fete is usually our biggest fundraiser and helps to keep us afloat, so it would be great if everyone could be thinking ‘How can I help?’.

We need people to run stalls. Last year we had a real struggle to find enough volunteers for all the stalls and some games weren’t run at all.

We need donations for the stalls – bottles, (lots of bottles – they can be soft drinks as well as alcohol), tombola prizes – little things like boxes of pencils, nice pads of paper and sweets, as well as lovely items that people will want to win. And plants, preferably labelled clearly which would really help those running the plant stall who aren’t necessarily experts!, We need items for the auction, raffle prizes, toiletries, cakes, good quality toys, books, home produce – jams, pickles and so on….. you know, you’ve done this before!

We are not having a White Elephant or Good as New this year but there are plenty of other stalls and activities which need to be run. Have you got a good idea for a new game – and are you prepared to run it?

Do you make lovely things that could go on a craft stall?

Can you sell more raffle tickets than anyone else?

Last year we raised more than £2,700 – wouldn’t it be great if we can make over £3,000? We can! We just need everyone to help.

To offer ideas and help, please contact Maxine –


Church is a who, not a what

On February 17 we celebrated, for the second year in a row, Love your Church Sunday. Here is the sermon preached that day by Stella Wiseman at St John’s and St Mark’s.

We love because he first loved us

Sunday was Love your Church Sunday and given out at the services – and sent to those who weren’t there but are part of the church – were some leaflets titled Love your Church Sunday 2019.

That does rather raise the question why we might love our church.

The leaflet speaks a lot about this and about some of the ways we might respond, but I wanted to share some personal ideas about why I have moved from a position of thinking that church is something I should do and should like, to something I actually really do like, in fact I do love it, even when I don’t love the institution of the church.

I have been in the Anglican church all my life and, for many years took part in communion services where the words near the start of the Eucharistic prayer – the one that leads up to saying the Lord’s Prayer and then receiving communion – were:

Let us give thanks to the Lord our God
It is right to give him thanks and praise.

It is indeed right,
it is our duty and our joy,
at all times and in all places
to give you thanks and praise,
holy Father, heavenly King,
almighty and eternal God,
through Jesus Christ your Son our Lord.

I could always appreciate the duty bit, but not the joy. But I think that was when I saw church as something we did – a place we went to, liturgies we followed, beliefs I thought we had to have, beliefs that I had somehow to persuade myself to have even when I wasn’t sure I had them, which made it was all quite trying.

But recently it has dawned on me that church is not about what we do and what we believe so much as about who we are. Church is a who, not a what. By that I mean it’s about us being the body of Christ, all with our own strengths, weaknesses, personalities, beliefs, understanding etc, and all loved and equally important in God’s eyes, and all of us part of the body of Christ on earth.

It’s actually being here in this parish that I have begun to learn this, to learn that church is a community, a family, though with fewer blood ties. That’s what church started out like in the days after Jesus was on earth – a community – though in the early church they held all their possessions in common which I am not suggesting we do (although we are encouraged to make contributions to the church and there is more about that in the Love your Church Sunday 2019 leaftet. They were a community and we are a community.

That doesn’t mean we are all lovey-dovey and everything is sweetness and light. There are, as we all know, divisions in the church as a whole, deep divisions and deep hurt. There were divisions in the days of the early church – in particular about and between Jews and Gentiles (eg in Acts six ‘the Hellenists complained against the Hebrews because their widows were being neglected in the daily distribution of food’), and there was great division over circumcision and whether it was necessary.

There will always be divisions as, guess what, we are human and we don’t know all the answers despite what we think. But this sermon is about what we love about church not the divisions and we forget this sometimes and focus on what we do not love, on what goes wrong.

What I love is the community and support in bad times. We all have these. Many of you will be going through a very difficult time at the moment, or just coming out of one, or about to head in to one. It is what happens. My family and I have had a pretty rubbish time recently with redundancy and illness, and there has been huge support for us. This has been through the church and from elsewhere – one non-churchgoing friend turned up with a big bag of food and some flowers for us at one point. Jesus doesn’t work just through ‘churchgoers’.

But there are added dimensions that I have found in the church which are not so apparent elsewhere. The first is the understanding that God is with us in all of this. In the Old Testament reading this week (Jeremiah 17 5-10) it is written: “Blessed are those who trust in the Lord… They shall be like a tree planted by water, sending out its roots by the stream. It shall not fear when heat comes, and its leaves shall stay green; in the year of drought it is not anxious, and it does not cease to bear fruit.” I’m not saying that I am not fearing or anxious or that I am bearing a lot of fruit at the moment – I am very anxious, today has been particularly tough, and what I can do is limited – but I understand from this and from elsewhere (eg Psalm 23 ‘Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil; for you are with me; your rod and your staff, they comfort me.’) that God is with us in this.

The second is prayer. Sometimes I haven’t been able to pray. It has seemed foolish, as if somehow I am expecting a miracle. In times of crisis I can’t always believe – a faith seems to be no more than wishful thinking. But that is where the church helps. For a start, there are people praying when I can’t pray, when you can’t pray. I was at a meeting of the group LGBT+ Christians Southampton and around the other day and I was asked for an update on what has been happening. The leader said:  “We hope you can feel held in our hands for a few hours” and we were prayed for and I know other people in that group and in this parish and all over the place, are praying and they are praying when I have felt I can’t pray. That is enormously comforting.

In fact, the church, as the body of Christ, carries us when we can’t do it ourselves. Sometimes we find it hard to believe but you will find that the creed which we say in a church on Sundays says: “We believe…” which is perfect when I, as an individual, can’t believe. There are days I find belief hard. That happens to all of us, but the corporate belief remains and is still there when our faith returns.

The church is also a family who are not as immediate as your home family which means that when something difficult is happening they can be a step away from the raw emotion that may be consuming you and the rest of your family, which can be a huge help.

Church is also a place to learn about God and to ask questions – that is very much the case in this parish. There are groups in the parish where you can study and learn more – Moving On!, Beyond Belief, various Bible study groups and so forth – and you can ask anything. You don’t need to worry about holding the ‘correct’ beliefs.  I would not be setting out to train for ordination this September if I had not been in a parish where I could discuss my questions, doubts and beliefs without fear, where I have been held through the years as I wrestled with faith. It started when John Page was rector and carried on, allowing me to explore without fear of judgment or rejection. I am very grateful.

There are groups and activities too which are more to do with just getting together and being sociable, making friends – table tennis, art, Connections, choir are just a few – times when we can get to know each other and help form a stronger community – but always an outward-looking community and never cliquey.

Churches are not perfect but that is OK. We love church because it is made up of us, but us with God, reflecting God’s love. Being part of the church is not something we have to do by ourselves – we are the outward expression of God’s love on earth. As is written in the Bible in John 4, v 19 ‘We love because he first loved us’.


Picture by Jiroe (@matiasrengel) on Unsplash.

A comforting croodle

The Celtic musical tradition of the British Isles is a rich one, with music which has been passed down the generations in Wales, Scotland, Ireland and the North East of England, and which has permeated non-Celtic culture. After all, don’t we all sing Auld Lang Syne at new year?

Auld Lang Syne is not the only familiar Celtic tune – there are plenty which most of us can sing along to, something ably demonstrated by the Celtic Croodle which took part at St Mark’s Church last Saturday evening (February 9), thanks to the hard work and talent of Wendy Edwards with support from Frances Whewell.

To croodle means to snuggle together and St Mark’s looked cosy and warm, offering welcome after a wet February day.  We sat around tables while Wendy, accompanied on the piano by Frances, led us on a musical tour of the Celtic parts of the British Isles, encouraging us to join in.

We started and ended in Scotland and en route we learned a little of the background to each song, though sometimes the origins are obscure. So we learned, for instance that the ‘low road’ in Loch Lomon (“O ye’ll tak’ the high road, and I’ll tak’ the low road, And I’ll be in Scotland a’fore ye,”) may refer to the tradition that the soul of a dead Scot who died abroad was taken back to rest in Scotland by a secret road; and that Bobby Shafto (a north-eastern song) was an 18th century politician who may well have dandled a baby or two in the hope of improving his reputation (“Bobby Shafto’s gettin’ a bairn/For to dangle on his arm”).

On the trip through Ireland among those we learned and sang about were young Mollie Malone, and an Irish émigré shocked by the fashions and attitudes of 19th-century London, writing back to his true love in a valley near the Mountains of Mourne. In Wales as well as singing along lustily to Land of My Fathers (and not a rugby ball in sight), we listened to Wendy sing beautiful songs including David of the White Rock and we were moved by All through the Night, before hurrying back to Scotland to join hands and sing Auld Lang Syne.

As well as the music, Wendy had provided a light Celtic supper of oatcakes, cheese, cheese and onion ‘sausages’, shortbread and Welsh cakes, which we enjoyed at the interval.

It was a happy, comforting and relaxing evening, an antidote to the February blues that can strike us. It also raised £200 in donations for the Kitty Milroy murals appeal through which we are planning to restore the rare and important murals in the chancel at St Mark’s.

Wendy is holding another musical evening at St Mark’s in May. This one will be a jazz evening in memory of her parents, renowned local journalists and historians Jean and Ted Parratt. It will take place at the church on May 4 from 7.30pm.  A light meal will be included but please bring your own drinks. The evening will also raise money for the Kitty Milroy murals,

Donate a bike, transform a life

If you have a bike you don’t want, or a bike that needs servicing, or you haven’t got a bike and would like one, come along to Bike Start in Browning Barracks, Alisons Road, Aldershot, and in doing so raise money for The Source, a Christian charity which supports young people who are particularly vulnerable or in challenging circumstances.

Bike Start operates on a Monday and Thursday and, as well as servicing bikes either for individuals or to sell them through eBay, Bike Start can teach you how to maintain a bike. It trains groups and individuals in bike maintenance skills and will run charity days and team bonding days for organisations.

The Source works with 11- to 25-year-olds who are isolated, vulnerable, struggling at school, in trouble with the law, have challenging family relationships, are homeless, in care, live on their own or are young parents. It offers counselling, life coaching, mentoring, anger management programmes and support for young parents.

Ellie Jones, director of The Source, said: “We are so very grateful to everyone who supports BikeStart through donating bikes, buying bikes and coming to us for servicing and repairs.  You have made such a difference to the lives of the young people we support and empower.”

To find out more about BikeStart, donate your old bikes or book your bike service visit or call 07596 564428.


source bikes




Top picture by Chris Becker, Unsplash.