Pray As You Go – Stations of the Cross

At St George’s yesterday we considered the stations of the Cross using Ignatian Meditations – they are here.

Each station led me into a greater understanding of the injustice, the pain, the horror of our Lord’s Passion, and the response of those around him on his journey. Christ’s own response was love, dignity, forgiveness and acceptance. Christ was carrying the cross for me in some mysterious way. Carrying it for all of us. And doing it willingly.

What could or should be my response? I was particularly moved by the repeated prayer at the end of each mediation:

Dearest Jesus, teach me to be generous.
Teach me to love and serve you as you deserve,
To give and not to count the cost,
To fight and not to heed the wounds,
To toil and not to seek for rest
To labour and to look for no reward,
Except that of knowing that I do your Holy Will.


The impact of loss, self knowledge and the cross

reelworship_cross_2Losing my mum two and a half years ago has changed my understanding of so many things. The most obvious change is that I now understand grief in a different way. Grief is an emotion that I meet on a nearly weekly basis thanks to funeral ministry, and obviously everyone’s grief is different so it is wrong to generalise. However, my change in understanding is that grief isn’t a phase, a period of time, an emotion to work through…. Grief is an emotional reaction to the reality of loss, and the loss is forever. Grief may be a process, but it is the process of accepting the loss, and the impacts of the loss are with us for the rest of our lives. That loss can be bad, or good, or perhaps most likely, the impact of loss can be both good and bad.

The weirdest thing that happened to me after mum died was that I instantaneously understood her differently and I understood myself and the whole of my life up to that point in a new way. It was the separation from the one who had been everything to me at one time in my life. I suddenly realised that spending my earliest years in countries where no one spoke my language, other than my mum, had created an incredibly intense relationship between us, one that had been complicated by both of us suffering from anxiety.

Within days of her death I wished that she had been alive so that I could behave differently, speak to her properly, readjust our relationship given my new knowledge of both her and me. It was ironic that it was her death that might have meant that we could have had a better relationship. At times it felt like a bitter irony.

I felt a great loss, like the loss of a limb, but it was a loss inside me, a hole that had appeared and which felt like it couldn’t be filled. And it hasn’t, so far. The hole is still there – still the same shape and size – it feels like a mother-shaped hole. But I don’t regret her death any more. I feel better for the understanding it has given me. I feel both liberated and empowered.

As I contemplate the question of “Why did Jesus die” once again in this Holy Week, I find myself wondering whether some of this experience was the same for the disciples. They were shocked to discover themselves in a new way after Jesus’ death – for many of them cowardice ruled the day without their leader. Perhaps the loss made them realise where Jesus ended and where they began, what Jesus meant to them and how he had affected them. When Jesus rose from the dead he met different men and women than the ones that he had left – ones that could never be the same because in their loss they met themselves and knew themselves more deeply. And Jesus wasn’t restored to them in the same way – his resurrection body was different to his former one – it had the marks of the nails but he was hard to recognise.

In Christ’s death and resurrection one of the things that changed was that the baton passed – making disciples was no longer primarily Jesus’s job, it was now the job of the disciples, our job. Or was it? Because we can’t do it – only God can – but God gives us the Holy Spirit so that we might be the hands and hearts through which God’s grace and love flows.

I hate that Jesus died, I find Holy Week terrible. Every year. But I don’t regret that Jesus died, for in doing so Jesus blessed the world with God’s immense love and grace through flawed people, even people like me.

A Roman Soldier’s Tale: Part One (written by Simon Spiers)

My name is Flavious Stilico
I was a member of the Roman Guard for 25 years
I was born in Rome, and from an early age I wanted to be a Roman Solider. So I joined as a cadet at the earliest opportunity, and when I gained my commission it was a very proud day. I was given my uniform constituting a shiny breast plate for protection, a round leather shield; a stout dagger held in a leather sheaf, a fine plumed helmets, leather sandals that where comfortable for marching and supple enough for running, all finished off with a natty leather skirt.
At that time the Roman Empire expanded and as we occupied new territory we bought law and order, civilisation, introduced new culture, improved construction techniques and built straight roads; it was all good; As the Roman Empire grew we were required to work away from home in a peace keeping role. We called it being on tour. At one point I was posted to an area called Judea.
There were certain rebels and some civil disobedience but there were methods of control from a few nights in jail right up to execution in the form of crucifixion.
Now on a previous tour I had to officiate at a crucifixion. The convict suffered a long and painful death and I was of the opinion that however bad evil or nasty a person was; this punishment was far too over the top, in humane, overly cruel and barbaric. It was for that reason that when rotas were issued for future crucifixions I made sure I was at the back of the queue.
However and inevitably the time came for me to officiate at another crucifixion which seemed to be quite high profile as there were to be three criminals and it was to be held at a place called the skull which was a rocky mound just outside the city gate. It was a busy thoroughfare and so many people would pass by. Even if they did not stop to look they would know what was occurring; it was to be a very public execution.
My task was to guard the spot prior to the prisoners arriving. It was tradition that the condemned would carry their own cross to their place of execution. I saw them make their way but one had another person carry his until they got close and then swapped. I could see why as this man had obviously been badly beaten and he barely had enough strength to carry his cross the last few steps. He was wearing a crown of thorns and congealed blood on his face.
It was custom for the charge against the condemned person to be written on a plaque on the top of their cross. Two of the criminals had a plaque that read “Bandit” The third His name was Jesus had three plaques and an inscription which read “The King of the Jews” one was written in Greek, one was written in Latin and one was written in Hebrew. These were the languages spoken by the people in that place at that time. This meant that all passers-by, whatever their nationality would be able to read that his crime was being King of the Jews.
The crosses were set up and the first man looked terrified he tried to struggle and get away, but we over powered him and he was tied to the cross with ropes. The second man was calmer and seemed to accept his fate as we strung him up. With the man Jesus we were told to nail him to his cross. There was a small ledge in the middle of the upright, which he was positioned on with his crutch carrying his weight. Then his left arm was outstretched and a club nail was positioned between the bones in his wrist. The nail was driven through his flesh and into the wood into the wood. His right arm was outstretched and through the joint in his wrist the nail was driven through his flesh and in to the wood. His body was then lifted up off the shelve and his feet were nailed to the cross through the joints in his ankles.
The reason for lifting the body of the ledge was to remove support to his legs and back so to make the pain even more excruciating.
And so we waited……….
After about three hours Jesus cried out and seemed to be talking to his Father and then he said that he was thirsty. We had a jar of cheap wine and as an act of compassion I filled a sponge with it and offered it to him to drink. My plan did not work as he would not drink. My colleagues thought it was funny and jeered at Jesus, and then the crowed got a bit excited and there was some pushing and shoving and they cried out “if you are the Messiah save yourself and come down from the cross”.
There was a lot of shouting and then I heard a voice above the rest, I looked up and realised that it was one of the bandits being crucified and he was shouting “ if you are the Messiah save yourself and us while your’ at it.” This was mixed in with a number of expletives. But the other bandit rebuked him and said “Do you not fear God for we are all condemned for the same sentence yet we are guilty of the crimes we have committed yet this man is totally innocent.”
Now I heard this dialogue and what was said next stayed with me because the criminal then said
“Jesus remember me when you enter your Kingdom” – he had recognised Jesus for who he was.
Jesus’ reply was even more remarkable for he said
“I tell you that today you will be me in paradise”
Yes well OK I don’t actually know what paradise is, but I imagined it is a positive harmonious and peaceful. And here was a man at the worst possible place moments from death and in agony on a cross and yet by a chance meeting with Jesus his life was to be transformed to a highest level. It was not something that was distant or he had to wait for, as it was to happen that very day.
At a moment there was a cloud formation over where we were. The clouds got darker and darker and although it was daytime it seemed like dusk. It was atmospheric a little bit frighten as we did not know what was happening.
Then Jesus cried out again and breathed his last. He was the first to die and we waited and then after a while the other two died in relatively quick succession. We wanted to make sure so we bust their legs – there was no reaction so we knew they were dead.
We had been told not to break a bone in Jesus’ body and to check he was dead the centurion pierced his side with his sword. Blood and water flowed from the wound. And he announced in a loud voice “Truly this was the Son of God.” It was at that moment I was fuelled by shock and horror as I realised that I had been part of and complicit in the execution of an innocent man. But not just any innocent man this was Jesus the Messiah , Jesus the King of the Jews, Jesus The Son of God.
The corpses were taken down from their crosses; my shift was over. I went back to my room sat down and was physically sick, I could not eat or sleep, constantly thinking of the events of that day.

On the third day after the event something happened to me that I couldn’t completely understand or explain, but in a moment I felt the burden of my guilt suddenly lifted from me and I knew that my life had changed from that moment on.

Mary, Mother of Jesus (written by Anne Boyman)

Look what they have done to him, my boy, my beautiful boy. Oh I know he’s a man but he will always be my boy. Why have they done it? He didn’t do anything wrong, in fact he healed people he made them whole again. What are they so afraid of? I don’t understand.

Yet even when he was up there, in agony he was still thinking of others. He looked down at me standing there with my sister and he said to me, “Mother behold thy son.” And to John he said “behold your Mother.” Even at that moment of suffering he was thinking of me and making sure I would be alright without him. Will I be alright? Can I go on after this? Do I have the strength?
I pray God will help me.

It’s so different from the day he came into this world, that tiny baby who caused such a stir heralded by angels and especially bright stars. Everybody was so excited, desperate to see him. The simple shepherds smelling of earth and animals rushing down from the fields bringing a lamb with them. The grand Magi who had travelled so far bringing wonderfully fragrant oils and spices and gold!!

It wasn’t always easy being the mother of the son of God.
I remember the time we travelled to the temple in Jerusalem for Passover and then on the way back after a whole days travelling we discovered he wasn’t with the group. Frantically we rushed all the way back and searched all over Jerusalem. I was out of my mind with worry and after three days we found him talking to the elders! He was so surprised that we were worried, after all, he said, he was in his father’s house!

We travelled to Jerusalem for the Passover again this week. I was in the crowd when Jesus entered the city on a donkey of all things! They greeted him like a King, shouting “Hosanna” and laying palms and coats before him. everyone was so excited, here was their King at last the Messiah they had been promised. what happened? How did it all change so quickly? It was only a few days ago.

I was so proud when he began his ministry and stories came back about miracles and healings and hundreds of people following and hanging on his every word.
I couldn’t wait for him to come to Nazareth and then there he was in the temple reading the Torah and speaking so eloquently, everyone was so impressed, they couldn’t believe it was my son. But then as he continued telling them the reading was about him the mood changed they became angry. They chased him out of town, his town, where he was brought up.

And now they’ve done this to him. Why? How has he made them so angry, so afraid of him? Have I got it wrong? Could it be that he’s not the son of God? Would God let this happen? What’s the point? What has he achieved?

And yet Simeon warned me all those years ago “a sword will pierce your own soul”. How right he was as I watched them condemn him, whip him, ridicule him. As I heard those nails being hammered into his hands and feet my heart was torn in two.

Why? What has been achieved? O God help me to understand why. What is your plan? Please show me.

A Disciple (written by Stewart Dakers)

I don’t know what to do. I`ve no one to talk to. Maybe you lot can help. Obviously I can`t ask him, and the others, well, to be honest I’ve never been comfortable with them. Especially that Peter, sorry I don`t like him, obsequious little….master this and master that and shall we build a tabernacle and can I sit next to you in heaven, ok that was the others, but they`re all the same. They haven`t a clue. All they can think about is the rapture and Yahweh sending his angels down. Total cop-out.

Me, I don`t believe that stuff. If anything is going to happen it`s up to us to get it going, down here, on the streets. I`ve been a kicking against the pricks all my life, school, estate, if something wasn`t right, me, I`d be there. At first it was the Romans, till I realised that it was the priests, especially the Pharisees.

It`s them who make it impossible to survive, all this stuff about a righteous remnant and the only ones who are going to be saved will be those who pay their temple taxes and stick to every ruddy iota of the law – and of course avoid any work for the Romans.

That`s what really attracted me to him in the first place. He`s really got it in for the Pharisees, and the landlords. He`s on the side of the weak, the damaged, the outsiders, the publicans – word on the street is that his dad was one. Well, that`s me as well, so obviously i joined up.

What we need now is a leader and he could be the one. I mean, look at what`s happened; I mean, he arrives in Jerusalem and the place goes mad; he was mobbed, he`s a superstar.

So what`s my problem? Well it seems to me that he`s been ratcheting up the pressure, but something has to make it explode. He can`t do it on his own. The Romans are a canny bunch, no way they`re going to risk a riot, so someone has to take the initiative. And I think it`s meant to be me. I think he`s telling me. The other night he slapped me down over the woman and the oil, but i think he was telling me to go ahead, to light the fuse; all this time he`s been saying give it away to the poor and that`s all I was saying about the oil so it made sense. He was saying I was right all along, so go ahead, it`s up to me. He needed the authorities to move on him, but they`re scared, they need someone on the inside. And there`s this voice inside my head which says it`s me. That way, they`d go for him and then the people would really rise up. They need me. More to the point, he needs me. History will tell.

Mrs Pilate (written by Lesley Shatwell)

What is it with these people?

Who do they think they are?

I mean, Caesar is our Emperor and just because the Jews have a king, they think they can just do what they like.

I’m sorry, I haven’t introduced myself, have I? I’m Claudia Procula, you might know me better as Mrs Pilate.

Yes, that’s right, Pontius Pilate the Procurator is my husband and my goodness, is he having a tough time at the moment.

We’re generally happy though, it’s nice in Caesarea, I’ve got a very comfortable villa, well I don’t like to boast – but it’s a palace really and it is well away from these Jews, I could almost imagine I were back in Rome. I wasn’t best happy when Pontius came to Judea, but I know what it means to him. He’s trying to get on, to impress Emperor Tiberius – not that the emperor cares much about us, he’s retired to his villa at Capri. Still I understand that and I support Pontius.

Sorry – I digress.
The Jews and their festivals. This one is Passover, they call it Pesach. Jerusalem is full, everyone from miles around has come – it’s the big one. And of course, that’s why Pontius had to come. We don’t want any trouble flaring up.

Well, it was nice to see all my Jerusalem friends again, and I was out shopping with my friend Augusta – she had one of the chi-chi villas out on the west side. We heard this kerfuffle coming from the Temple, so we had to go and see what was happening and just at that moment someone came running out yelling, “I can see, I can see!” We went a bit closer and I caught sight of the man in the midst of the throng, he just looked like a country rabbi, not a city dweller and then he saw me. I won’t forget his eyes. It was as though they through me to my very being and time stood still. Well, I turned away, straight away, but I sent our servant Marcia to find out who he was.

Marcia said, “His name’s Jesus, they are calling him the Son of David and he is healing people. He makes blind people see and the lame to walk again.” Just then, I spotted some of the city guard and Augusta and I bid a hasty retreat.

It’s strange though. I couldn’t get him out of my mind, I remember his eyes on me and it was as though he called my name. And then Pontius came home. He’s been aloof recently, not wanting to talk to me – we usually chat about my day and his, but he didn’t even want to see the new silk I’d bought.

The next morning he went off to work again, there had been a big to do in the night, Pontius said there’d been an arrest over in Gethsemane and he might be needed. You see, the Jews can try their own criminals, but they can’t execute them, they can’t crucify them and if there’s a real trouble-maker been caught, it’s sometimes best if he doesn’t ever get the chance to be a nuisance again.

I was daydreaming. Well, I’m not sure, everything seemed so real to me. A beautiful man, I saw him, he was sinuous, like a snake though – something not right about him. The next I knew, he was round behind me and he whispered in my ear, “Your husband holds sway over the life and death of a holy and saintly man. His name’s Jesus, who calls himself Christ. You must be sure your husband doesn’t pass sentence on him, for if he does you’ll both be utterly destroyed.” I came to screaming, there was no one there, but Marcia ran in to see what had happened. She’d seen no one, but it was all so real.

There was that name again, Jesus.
Was Jesus the man they’d arrested in Gethsemane?
Jesus, the one who’d healed blind people, lame people?
Jesus, the man with the eyes that look into people’s very being?

I must do something. I texted Pontius wait, I have it here:

‘Have nothing to do with that innocent man, for today I have suffered a great deal because of a dream about him.’

Pontius came home at lunchtime.
At the moment he received my text, he was sitting in judgement on that very man.
He could find nothing against him.
But the Chief Priests and the Elders wanted him dead.
Pontius tried everything to save Jesus
Pontius asked, “Are you the king of the Jews?”
And all Jesus said was, “You say so.”
Well there was nothing Pontius could do, Jesus didn’t even try to help himself.
Pontius even offered the decision to the crowd, would they save Jesus, their king? At their festival?
But no, they would have Barabbas – well that’s borrowed time for that villain.
So Jesus was flogged, but still he wouldn’t say anything in his own defence.
Pontius would have let him go, but the Jews said, “We have a law, and according to that law he ought to die because he has claimed to be the Son of God.”
Well, that set the cat among the pigeons.
At least Pontius knew why the Chief Priests and Elders were set against Jesus, it threated them you see.
Pontius just washed his hands of the matter, he knew he was sending an innocent man to his death, but what could he do, there would have been a riot?

And now, he’s had to go out again. There’s trouble.
I’ll say there’s trouble.
I’m scared
Well, it’s dark, pitch dark
And it’s daytime.
I can’t forget those eyes

Have we really just killed the Son of God?

Matt 21.14-17
14 The blind and the lame came to him in the temple, and he cured them. 15 But when the chief priests and the scribes saw the amazing things that he did, and heard[d] the children crying out in the temple, ‘Hosanna to the Son of David’, they became angry 16 and said to him, ‘Do you hear what these are saying?’ Jesus said to them, ‘Yes; have you never read,
“Out of the mouths of infants and nursing babies
you have prepared praise for yourself”?’
17 He left them, went out of the city to Bethany, and spent the night there.

Matt 27.19 While he was sitting on the judgement seat, his wife sent word to him, ‘Have nothing to do with that innocent man, for today I have suffered a great deal because of a dream about him.’

medieval writers said Claudia dreamed of the devil, who whispered seductively in her ear, “Your husband holds sway over the life and death of a holy and saintly man. His name’s Jesus, who calls himself Christ. You must be sure your husband doesn’t pass sentence on him, for if he does you’ll both be utterly destroyed.”

23 02 14

In Caesarea, they also found a block of stone with a local Governor’s name carved on it. Tell us the story. What does that tell us about the society and the politics of that time?
Yes, this inscription that’s now been found at Caesarea Maritima, which refers to Pontius Pilate, is one of the most important discoveries made in the archeological work of the last two decades. Precisely because it’s the first piece of hard evidence of the existence of Pontius Pilate. Now, for Pilate, of course, we have a number of literary references, both in the Jewish historian, Josephus, and also among the Christian gospels. But this is the first piece of direct evidence from an archaeological source which actually gives us his name and tells us he was there as Governor. The city of Caesarea Maratima was actually the Governor’s residence. This was the capitol city, from the perspective of the Roman political administration. So, it would have been where Pontius Pilate would have lived, where he would have had his court.
And what does that tell us, because if Herod ruled the city, if Herod was the local client King, what was Pontius Pilate doing there?
Herod ruled from 37 B.C.E. to 4 B.C.E. Quite a long and impressive reign from just the political perspective. But, at his death, his kingdom, which was the largest extent for the Jewish state since the time, really, of David and Solomon, was subdivided among three of his sons. One son, Herod Antipas, took the northern territories of the Galilee and those on the east side of the Jordan River. Another son, Phillip, took the areas to the east of the Sea of Galilee … the area now thought of as the Golan Heights, and a good stretch of territory over in that direction. The third son, Archelaeus, took the major portion, and in fact the most important cities… Now this region, which we would probably call Judea, was really the most important of the three sub-divisions. But Archelaeus, in contrast to his two half-brothers, didn’t fare as well as his father. And within ten years, he was removed by the Roman overlords, and replaced with military governors … what we usually refer to as Procurators, or Prefects, posted there by the Roman administration to oversee the political activities of the state.
Pontius Pilate, is one of these first round of governors posted to the province of Judea, once it was given over to Roman military governorship. And the stone that we now have from Caesarea … is very important. It gives us three pieces of information. First, it tells us that Pontius Pilate was the Governor. Secondly, it calls him a Prefect. That’s what we see in line three of the text. Thirdly, and in some ways most interestingly, the first line tells us that Pilate had built a Tibereum. What that means is, a temple for the Emperor Tiberius, as part of the Imperial Cult. Thus, here we have, at Caesarea Maritima, a Roman Governor building a temple in honour of the Roman Emperor.
accessed 24 02 14

Neil and Kitty’s Church Wedding

1293044_502127403212053_343332061_oMy fiancée and I have always wanted to have a church wedding, but it had to be somewhere that meant something to us personally, and with me having grown up in Farnham, and been a regular at St John’s for many years, it made complete sense to have our wedding at St John’s.



After meeting Lesley and seeing how friendly and welcoming the congregation are, we were certain this was the place where we should start our married lives together.

Lesley was incredibly supportive and accommodating throughout, in terms of allowing access for our Photographer and Florist, in helping in our choice of readings and selection of hymns, we couldn’t have asked for anything more.

130906-133314-6597At our rehearsal, Lesley made every effort to make all involved feel as relaxed as possible, and really left us with a feeling of confidence that everything was ‘under control’.  The big day came at last, and it even stopped raining just at the perfect moment..

Our service was formal, personal, emotional and heartfelt all at the same time, and this was just the perfect balance for us, our families and guests.  In fact, many people commented on how lovely the service was and how, unlike at other weddings no-one wanted to ‘rush off to the reception’ but really take the time to soak up the atmosphere and to realise the importance and full impact of the wedding service itself.  Lesley’s address was funny, sincere and even included reminiscences from my time at the Church 25 years ago!

130906-133314-6416It was great to see how the congregation supported us at the wedding and this really added to how special our day felt.  With great accompaniment from the choir and organist, we all left the church with feelings of elation and optimism about our future together.

Neil Cruden

What’s happening during Lent?

Lent is a time when we traditionally slow down and reflect, journeying alongside Jesus as he travels through the wilderness for 40 days. We might take time to pray, to study, to attend extra services, read a spiritual book and join a Lent group. The sermons are more reflective, leading us towards the events of Holy Week, then on Good Friday we remember Christ’s death and of course on Easter Sunday we celebrate his resurrection. Lent starts on Ash Wednesday which is the 5th March this year.

clip_image002As we journey together we have chosen a course called “Puzzling Questions” for our Lent Groups. Normally, four groups run, two during the day and two in the evening – if you would like to join one of the groups then contact Lesley. We will also be running a group for youth this year. The topics are:

  • Who am I?
  • What is God like?
  • What happens after I die?
  • How can I be happy?
  • Why is there suffering in the world?
  •  What is the spiritual world and how does it impact my life?clip_image006

If you would like to take part but groups aren’t your thing then you can just get a copy of the workbook, which costs £3.99. There is also a book that the course is based on entitled “How can I be Happy?” which costs £7.99.



This year our Sunday Lent sermons will be based on a book by Stephen Cottrell entitled “The Nail”. The book offers reflections on Christ’s crucifixion, each chapter focussing on a different character, who describes his or her experience of the Passion. Members of the congregation will be giving their own meditations. If you would like to buy this book it is £6.99.


On Fridays at 12 noon at St Mark’s Church there will be a service led by visiting clergy from the other churches in the area. The theme for their sermons will be “God and the World” considering topics such as Climate Change and the impact this has on God’s World. After the service a Lent Lunch will be provided, the proceeds being given to charity.

The Ash Wednesday services on the 5th March will be joint Parish Services and will be at:

  • 9:30am at St John’s Church and
  • 7:30pm at St George’s Church

There will not be a Joint Parish Service on the fifth Sunday in March (30th) because it is Mothering Sunday and so the services will be:

  • 9:30am at St John’s Church
  • 10:00am at St George’s Church (joint service with Family Praise)
  • 11:00am at St Mark’s Church
  • 6:00pm at St Marks – Youth Mothering Sunday Communion Service (all welcome)

Posies will be given to all the mothers in the congregation.

Holy Week Starts on 14th April and there will be Communion Services in one of the churches each day – look out for details in next month’s magazine.

We hope you have a very blessed Lent

Lesley and Alan

Serving the Villages North of Farnham: Badshot Lea, Hale, Heath End & Weybourne