All posts by stellawiseman

‘Corner Chat’ offers company, cuppas and chat

A new venture is starting in Hale, offering a place for people to come and have a chat and a cup of tea or coffee in comfortable surroundings.

‘Corner Chat’ will take place on alternate Tuesdays from 10am to noon in the Sumner Room at St John’s Church, Hale, starting on September 18, and everyone is welcome whether they just want a bit of company, a hot drink and a biscuit, or some support.

“The idea is to provide a safe place in Hale where people can find company and enjoy friendly conversation on a regular basis,” said Wendy Edwards, founder of Corner Chat and a Licensed Lay Minister in the parish. “Everyone is very welcome, whatever their age. We have many people who come to St John’s regularly to tend loved ones’ graves, then there are parents from Tootsies Nursery in Monkton Lane and people just passing by.”

They won’t be formal bereavement sessions but bereavement support will be available if required. “We will all support each other as much as we can as we chat in the Sumner Room,” added Wendy.

Corner Chat will be on Tuesdays, September 18, October 2,16, 30, November 13, 27, and December 11.

For further information contact Wendy Edwards on 01252 406772 or 07740 082460 or at llm.wendy@badshotleaandhale.org

Photo of Wendy Edwards 23.01.18 (1)(1)Sumner Room

Pictured: Top – Have a welcome drink. Picture by Nicole Honeywill. Unsplash.
Above: Wendy Edwards; the Sumner Room at St John’s.

Out of the comfort zone and across the Channel

Jonathan Jones is a familiar sight around town – often in green frock coat, wearing a tricorn hat and ringing a bell as befits his position as town crier. From time to time we have seen him dressed in Victorian garb presenting a Dickens and/or Christmas readings evening at St Mark’s Church – he has long been associated with the parish. But just swimming trunks, hat and goggles? This is what he donned in August to take part in a sponsored swim across the English Channel to raise money for Aspire, a charity which supports people with spinal injuries.

The swim was relay-style from Dover to Cap Griz Nez in France, and involved a team of six swimmers, with an observer on board to ensure that everything is done correctly. “Each swimmer takes it in turn to swim for an hour,” said Jonathan. “Once the first rotation is completed, that same order must then be maintained for the rest of the crossing. If, for any reason, a swimmer is not able to take their turn, in the correct order, the team is ‘disqualified’ and the swim abandoned.”

Jonathan was the fifth swimmer. “So just after 8am I got myself ready, which included applying Vaseline to those parts that might chafe owing to the salt water, i.e. under the arms and, for men with beards, around the neck.

“As the swimmer before me, Annie, touched the board, I had to jump over her, into the water behind, before then turning and resuming the swim.

“The sea temperature was just below 18℃ (a public swimming pool is normally 29-31℃) and it was, to say the least, a bit of a shock to the system as I entered. I quickly composed myself, and got into a good rhythm (54 strokes per minute), with the intention of covering at least three kilometres in the next hour.”

As well as a choppy sea, the swimmers had to contend with jelly fish and floating debris, including a lot of plastic which Jonathan was told is increasing each year.

He added “Also, as a consequence of global warming, the sea is now getting a lot warmer, a lot sooner. Our ‘cold water’ qualification, where we have to swim for two hours in Dover Harbour when the sea temperature is 16℃ or less, now has to be done in June, whereas, several years ago, it would be done in July, but by then the sea temperature is too high.”

In between Jonathan’s swimming sessions he rested on the boat. “Once out of the water, the important thing is to get some warm clothing on, particularly on the head and feet, and then to get your wet costume off. You have only five minutes to accomplish this. After that, you start to shiver as blood returns to your extremities, and your hands shake so much that you are incapable of doing up zippers or buttons. Hence a ‘buddy’ system, whereby one of the other swimmers is nominated to help you prepare for your swim but, more importantly, assist once out of the water and with getting dressed, before then providing you with a hot drink. All the other swimmers were perfectly alright after a further five to 10 minutes, but it took me about half-an-hour to fully recover.” At 68, Jonathan was one of the older swimmers to take part.

Resting on the boat gave Jonathan a new perspective. “There is a certain beauty to behold out there, in the middle of this vast expanse of water,” she said. “It was a beautiful clear sunny day, and as we watched the sun rise just after 6am, and the gloom lift, the coast of France became clearly visible in the distance, though somewhat still far off. Apart from the steady beat of the boat’s engine, there was a peaceful sense of tranquility in all that vastness, which left an indelible memory that I will forever savour and cherish.”

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They had to swim with the tides, which did not all turn as expected, and the final swimmer landed at Wimereux, 14 kilometres south of where the team was heading. However, they reached the other side in the correct order in 14 hours and 29 minutes. The return took two-and-a-half hours.

Jonathan said he decided to take part in the swim “primarily because of the challenge it posed, and the opportunity of taking ourselves out of our comfort zones. But secondly, to raise monies for the Aspire charity, which provides much-needed support to people with spinal injuries, and which, since 2009, has been organising these Channel relays. Between the six of us, we will have raised over £20,000 for Aspire.”

He has further watery ambitions: “My personal goal is now to complete the six-hour qualifying swim in Dover Harbour sometime next summer. After that? Well, the oldest person to successfully complete the crossing was a 73-year-old South African heart surgeon. So, in 2023/24, God willing, I may attempt to enter the record books. Watch this space!”

To donate, visit www.justgiving.com/fundraising/jonathanfjones

Being intersex in the House of God

On Sunday, August 5, Sara Gillingham, an intersex Christian, came to talk to us at St Mark’s in one of the first sermons in our inclusion series this month.

She spoke movingly on her experience of being intersex in the House of God. This is what she said:

Thank you so much for inviting me here today just to share some of my experience of Church as someone who is born intersex. Firstly, I want to share a bit of my own story, before I reflect on Church and faith.

Just to explain what ‘intersex’ is, as it is often confused with LGBT, particularly Transgender. “Intersex” refers to people who are born with any of a range of biological sex characteristics that may not fit typical notions about male or female bodies. Variations may be in their chromosomes, genitals, or internal organs like testes or ovaries.

About 1.7% of the population is born intersex, across a very wide spectrum. Much of the problem is that there is very little awareness about ‘intersex’, and the secrecy surrounding us is often shaming and stigmatising. Often children are subject to surgeries that are not medically necessary, simply to alter their bodies to fit others expectations. It may be that intersex children, like other children, also have medical conditions that do need treatment, so it is important we differentiate between the two. We now know from research how harmful these non-medically necessary surgeries are to children’s physical and mental health.

I am a survivor of non-consensual surgeries. I was of an age that I remember some of the surgeries and the times when I was recorded or examined in front of medical students. The nature of these surgeries was kept secret from me by doctors and family, despite my asking about them on numerous occasions throughout adulthood. It was only seven years ago that I retrieved my medical records, which explained the secrecy. I have grown-up with the knowledge of knowing that I was somehow different, often with a sense of stigma as the secrecy surrounding me suggested I was somehow shameful.

It is my faith that has helped me endure those ‘dark days’, by showing there is a light out in the darkness. I often drew upon scripture such as :

2 Corinthians 4:8-9

We are hard pressed on every side, but not crushed; perplexed, but not in despair; persecuted, but not abandoned; struck down, but not destroyed. 10 

Many Christians born with Intersex traits find solace in the stories about eunuchs, for instance the baptism of the Ethiopian eunuch in Acts 8 : 26-40 where God acts to include those previously excluded.

Also they may emphasis in Genesis 1:27 that “God created human beings in his own image…male AND female he created them.

I personally do not feel the need to identify myself so specifically in biblical scripture, as I feel like everyone else I was created in the image of God. I do frequently turn to Psalm 139 which I find very affirming :

“You it was who fashioned my inward parts….You know me through and through, my body was no mystery to you, when I was formed in secret, woven in the depths of the earth’.

However, I know there are others in the Church that have a very different biblical interpretation and who call upon scripture to enforce their binary understanding, and label such people as myself as having ‘a disorder’. This is label that leads to the stigmatisation and non-consensual surgeries I have spoken about. I have also been labelled as being the embodiment of sin, and have been told by Christians to my face and in social media just in this last month alone, as being possessed by Satan with calls to ‘repent’.

I was invited to share my story in the Regional Shared Conversations on Human Sexuality over two years ago, where many were challenged by my physical presence. I had one member of clergy, who led a large team in his own parish, avoid eye-contact and actively avoided just me when sharing the peace at communion. I had people after hearing my story start to pray uninvited, that I be cured. Some embarrassment followed when I asked what being ‘healed’ may look like. It is this hurtful response that brings me in to fellowship with many people who have physical and mental health challenges.

The belief that is core to my faith is that Christ healed by helping people escape discrimination by restoring them as equal members of the community, no longer being marked as ‘IMPURE’.

So Church can be an extremely painful place for me. But I feel called by “God” to try and make use of my pain, and for this reason I am now on Deanery and Diocesan Synods. It is something I find difficult to do, but also at times hugely rewarding and uplifting as people who have remained silent for some many years also find the courage to speak out.

I am currently working with bishops as they prepare a new episcopal  teaching document and pastoral guidance on human sexuality, which will also include ‘intersex’. This again is a bruising experience at present, but I hope greater understanding will reap fruit in the future.

Church can also be a very healing place, and it is important to me and my well being. My own church community at Holy Trinity in Guildford has become my family, and has enabled me to flourish. It is my faith and my church that have given me the courage to find my voice, and put my experiences to good use.

Also being invited today, to one of an increasing number of safe and affirming churches, is both moving and joyous. Most of all we must not lose sight of this, as for many this is what they understand as Church.

So thank you.

Amen

Sara Gillingham

sara crop

God above us, within us and at the bottom of the garden

A Celtic Service

God above us – trees, birds and sunshine, stars and moonlight – God above us.

God within us – hope, tears and laughter, love and wonder – God within us.

A few weeks ago I was chatting with my son about the Celtic service at St George’s I was going to be taking part in, with Wendy Edwards and Dave and Helena Walker. As a joke – I think – he asked  Is that where you paint your face blue and dance around with no clothes on?”

I said that was not what we would be doing and he seemed disappointed ! However it did make me think that other people may have similar ideas.

So to reassure everyone, on Saturday, July 14 at 5pm, 22 of us met in the garden of St. George’s for a Celtic Service. The weather and setting were just right.

Wendy led our worship beautifully with words and prayers, and told us how she found God at the bottom of her garden. Helena and Dave prepared an area for us do do various art activities, and brought a large Celtic cross they had painted.

We sang some familiar hymns and some new songs and sang The Lord’s Prayer to the tune of Auld Lang Syne.

Afterwards we all stayed to chat over refreshments of shortbread, Welsh cakes and homemade fruit bread, with tea and coffee.

It was a beautiful service. Thank you Wendy. I look forward to the next one.

Margaret Emberson

PS And we did NOT paint our faces blue and dance around with no clothes on!

 

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Reflections on a rainbow

 

Last Wednesday (July 18) I and several others from the parish, had the privilege of being part of a ‘Rainbow Service’ at St Mary’s Church in Guildford, a communion service which celebrated diversity and in particular welcomed people from the LGBTI+ community, along with family, friends and allies.

The word ‘privilege’ is often used to describe people’s feelings when they have attended an event, so often used that it has become a cliché and I thought carefully before using it, but it really did feel a privilege to be part of a warm, joyful, colourful service which not only celebrated diversity but was also ground-breaking. There have been other such services in other places but this was, I believe, the first in this part of the Diocese of Guildford. It was also packed, and not just with Anglicans, for it was an ecumenical service. I don’t know who came from which church but among those I was particularly pleased to welcome were three from the Godalming Unitarian Chapel including the minister Sheena.

The word privilege is important here for another reason too. Those who identify as straight and cisgendered have been privileged in society, and LGBTI+ people have been at best marginalised and discriminated against. More than that they have often been persecuted, attacked, forced to hide themselves. In some places they are imprisoned, killed. Though in many countries society is much more welcoming now – we have equal marriage after all, though ceremonies cannot be conducted in the Anglican Church – discrimination remains and the church is in large part responsible. There were those I knew there who had experienced direct discrimination and humiliation from both church and society, and I knew just a few of the congregation.

During the service there were references to the wounds that have been and continue to be inflicted, but there was no sense of bitterness, simply an offering of ourselves to God and a joy that God welcomes us all here, now, as we are, and loves and celebrates us. The Confession included the words: ‘Forgive us when we don’t believe such love is true or possible, when we wonder how you could love us just as we are, when we forget our intricate construction, fearfully, wonderfully made, in your image! You know our hearts – and you love us still.’

There was joy, there was wonderful music, and there was colour, not least in the ribbons that we all wore and then tied to a huge circle of wool which we all held, before placing it on the altar, in the rainbow cloth in front of the altar, in the rainbow banner which until the night before had adorned St Mark’s in Hale, in the amazing rainbow cupcakes which a lady called Liz had made, in the installation celebrating and challenging us on inclusion which Lesley Shatwell had prepared, in the rainbow collages which Dave and Helena Walker encouraged us to make.

There was also talk, lots of it, with people lingering over nibbles, wine and those cupcakes, making friends, just feeling welcome. It was, as I said, a privilege and the first, I am certain, of many such occasions.

Stella Wiseman

If you went down to the church that day you were sure of a big surprise!

 

For outside we gathered (on July 8) for a Teddy Bears’ – and all sorts of cuddly friends’ – picnic. While they sat and made friends,  we spoke about how we can tell our teddies all of our innermost secrets, confess what we have done wrong and know that they will always love us, a bit like God! As we get older, we learn more and our view of our teddy changes. As we grow up, our view of God changes too. We have opportunities to grow in our spiritual commitment and come closer to the Lord. Our choir sang the ‘Gloria’ – you can see them in the picture – and sang hymns and had a lovely time together. We finished off with non-alcoholic ‘Pimms’ and cakes.

Maxine Everitt

Emily – the ‘Most Original Entry’

Hale Carnival was a joyful community affair with a happy, celebratory atmosphere which England’s win in the World Cup quarter-finals certainly enhanced. St Mark’s had its bunting up as well as a large rainbow banner as a reminder of God’s welcoming, inclusive love which is far greater than we can imagine. And we also had Emily!

Emily the replica organ was the St Mark’s entry into the carnival procession, created by Dave and Helena Walker and Frances and Paul Whewell. They also entered her into the Farnham Castle the previous Saturday where they won silver in the adults and individuals category. In  the Hale Carnival they not only took home second prize they also won ‘Most Original Entry’.

Thank-you Dave, Helena, Frances and Paul for your creativity and dedication!

Ministry team grows again

Wendy Edwards, Bishop Andrew and Craig Nobbs outside St Paul's, Dorking, after the serviceThe ministry team in the parish has grown again. With the licensing of Wendy and Craig as Licensed Lay Ministers (LLMs) last Saturday the team has grown to three full-time clergy, three LLMs and two retired clergy who still conduct services, preach and carry out pastoral work in the parish.

Wendy Edwards and Craig Nobbs were both licensed to the parish by the Bishop of Guildford, the Right Rev’d Andrew Watson in a service at St Paul’s, Dorking.

Wendy, the daughter of renowned local journalists Ted Parratt and the late Jean Parratt, started her training in Southwark, but returned to her childhood home of Farnham in 2017, following her mother’s death the previous year, and continued her training with the Diocese of Guildford.

“I returned to the church in 2007 after a very difficult time in my life, and I felt a calling to ministry but it was too early,” she said. “The feeling came again at the end of 2013 and I started exploring it and began my training in 2014. Licensed Lay Ministry is a preaching and teaching ministry in a pastoral context and I will have a particular funeral ministry. In my previous job I worked as a chartered legal executive specialising in wills and probate. I always supported people around the time of deaths in the family through the legal side and felt a call to support them through ministry.”

Wendy will be particularly attached to St John’s, Hale, the church she chose to go to when she returned to Farnham, in part because she had been a bridesmaid there twice in the late 1960s.

Craig Nobbs was already an LLM when he moved to Farnham 18 months ago but was licensed to another parish and wanted to continue his ministry in his new home. He has been relicensed to the Parish of Badshot Lea and Hale and his ministry will mostly be at St George’s, Badshot Lea.

Speaking after the service Craig said: “The service was out of this world and an affirmation of what I am doing in the parish. This parish is one with a big heart. During the licensing service I was conscious of waves of love from both the parish and from God himself. What kept going through my mind was a line ‘Ransomed, healed, restored, forgiven’ (from the hymn Praise, my soul, the King of Heaven), as that has been my experience.”

Craig’s ministry will mostly be at the weekend as he works full-time in London as a Whitehall civil servant taking a lead in educational policy.

Lesley Crawley added: “We are delighted and blessed to have both Wendy and Craig with us and look forward to their continuing ministry as the parish grows and seeks to express the love of God in our community”.

Party in the church (grounds) – 11th August

On 11th August, from 12.00, St George’s Church, Badshot Lea, join us for a fun afternoon (hopefully in the sun!) BBQ, mocktails, soft drinks, teas, games for everyone, young and old – a bit of music, a chance to relax. (If you’d rather have something a bit stronger to drink then please feel free to bring your own.) Open to all. Tickets £1 from Maxine – 01252 318135 – mainly so we have an idea of numbers. All proceeds to St. George’s heating fund. (If it does rain, we will be literally in the church 😃)

Party in the Church