Our May magazine is out now, a bumper edition this month with information about the elections for Surrey County Council members and the Surrey Police and Crime Commissioner. Please read their statements and please vote; if we don’t bother to have a say we can hardly complain about the people who are elected.
There is information too about events going on this month including our Farnham Flower Festival (online again, of course) which is being sponsored by our favourite florist Florescence, and plans for the fete in July. Please get involved in both. There is news about new rooms to hire, an article on grief, information about taking part in Christian Aid Week and much more, plus, of course, lots of great adverts with services, offers and classes.
Happy Easter from the Easter Bunny, Big-Sister-Who-Knows-A-Lot Bunny, A-Bit-Of-A-Worrier Bunny, Quite-Small Bunny, Smallest-Bunny-Of-All (very loudly) and, of course, the Chocolate Chicken.
May you know the blessing and hope of Christ this Easter!
Holy Saturday isn’t as sunny as Good Friday, but the bunnies still manage to get in a walk. Big-Sister-Who-Knows-A-Lot Bunny wants to show them the difference between a park and a recreation ground (which she is careful not to call a ‘rec’ for fear of getting Quite-Small Bunny’s hopes up).
“Wow! This is huge!” says A-Bit-Of-A-Worrier Bunny. “I hope we won’t get lost.”
“Don’t worry, I’m with you,” says the Easter Bunny. “And I know the way.”
“Look!” shouts Smallest-Bunny-Of-All. “We can climb the trees!”
It’s quite a long way up for their little legs, and A-Bit-Of-A-Worrier Bunny is, well, a bit of a worrier about whether they are safe, but from their tree they can see a long way.
“What’s that?” asks Quite-Small Bunny? “Down there on the ground?”
“It’s the chocolate chicken!” yells Smallest-Bunny-Of-All.
And it is! The Easter Bunny is overjoyed to see her.
“Can I place an order for eggs?” she asks.
The bunnies are in a reflective mood. Before they tuck in to a hot cross bun (they are only little bunnies so they need only one between them), the Easter Bunny tells them a little bit about Good Friday.
“So Jesus showed everyone a different way and people didn’t like it, is that right?” asks Big-Sister-Who-Knows-A-Lot-And-Wants-To-Know-Even-More Bunny.
“That’s right,” says the Easter Bunny.
“What way was that?” asks A-Bit-Of-A-Worrier Bunny.
“It was a way of love,” says the Easter Bunny.
“Is that why our bun has a kiss on it?” asks Quite-Small Bunny.
The Easter Bunny gives him a hug.
Smallest-Bunny-Of-All hopes that the bun also has chocolate in it. Good thing the Easter Bunny can’t read her mind.
After yesterday’s confusion about ship wrecks and recreation grounds, the bunnies investigate the houses further and discover, to the delight of the children at least, that there is another playground.
“Just a short play,” says the Easter Bunny, “I want to go to the Maundy Thursday service this evening.”
“Evening is years away!” says Quite-Small Bunny.
“No, it’s only a few hours away,” Big-Sister-Who-Knows-A-Lot Bunny corrects him.
“Whose going to baby-bunnysit us when you go to the service?” asks A-Bit-Of-A-Worrier Bunny.
“The chocolate chicken can!” shouts Smallest-Bunny-Of-All from her high perch.
‘If only,’ thinks the Easter Bunny.
The Easter Bunny and her family investigate what else there is near the church they found yesterday. There seem to be lots of houses and people, some of them playing games, and this all makes A-Bit-Of-A-Worrier Bunny, well, worried.
“Supposing they don’t like bunnies,” he says.
“Everyone was very welcoming at church when we went on Sunday, weren’t they?” says the Easter Bunny. “And there’s plenty of space in all these big green fields.”
“They are recreation grounds,” says Big-Sister-Who-Knows-A-Lot Bunny. “Or you can call them ‘recs’.”
“I want to see the rec, I want to see the rec!” says Quite-Small Bunny. “There might be lost treasure.”
It takes the Easter Bunny a while to realise that he thinks he is going to see a ship wreck.
To cheer him up she promises them all ice cream.
“Can I have a chocolate flake in my ice cream?” asks Smallest-Bunny-Of-All.
That reminds the Easter Bunny of a problem. Just where is that chocolate chicken?
It’s a beautiful day and the Easter Bunny takes her family for a walk, this time to another part of north Farnham where she has seen another church.
“It’s a lovely place to live,” she tells them as she leads the way down the road.
“Can we have a burrow in one of the parks here?” asks Quite-Small Bunny.
“They are recreation grounds,” says Big-Sister-Who-Knows-A-Lot Bunny. “The park is a very big area over there,” she says, waving a paw in what she hopes might be the right direction, as she doesn’t always know quite as much as she makes out (shh! don’t tell anyone).
“A big park might be a bit too big for little bunnies,” worries A-Bit-Of-A-Worrier Bunny.
“I don’t mind, as long as there are flowers and playgrounds,” says Smallest-Bunny-Of-All . He scampers off into a clump of daffodils.
“I also want to live somewhere where there are chocolate eggs!” he calls.
That reminds the Easter Bunny of a problem…
There has been a disagreement about what to do today. Big-Sister-Who-Knows-A-Lot Bunny wants to study the spring flowers for a school project.
Smallest-Bunny-Of-All wants to visit the playground.
A-Bit-Of-A-Worrier Bunny doesn’t like disagreements and is feeling a bit upset.
Thankfully Quite-Small Bunny has a solution: “Let’s do both.”
The Easter Bunny thinks that this might give her a greater chance of finding a chocolate chicken.
It’s Palm Sunday and the Easter Bunny and her family want to go to church.
“Here’s the door,” says Quite-Small Bunny.
“Will we be allowed? We’re not like most of the people here,” says A-Bit-Of-A-Worrier Bunny.
For once Big-Sister-Who-Knows-A-Lot Bunny turns to her mother for the answer.
“Of course,” says the Easter Bunny, “this is a church where everyone is welcomed, whoever we are.”
“Come on in,” says the vicar, “you are very welcome.”
The Easter Bunny hopes that a chocolate chicken has also found her way here.
During the service a small voice can he heard singing ‘Sleeping bunnies’. It’s Smallest-Bunny-Of-All’s favourite song.
The Easter Bunny and her family stop off for a rest on a park bench.
“Where are all the people?” asks Quite-Small Bunny.
“They are having to stay inside and keep safe because of Covid,” says Big-Sister-Who-Knows-A-Lot Bunny.
“Do we have to do that?” asks A-Bit-Of-A-Worrier Bunny.
“Can we go and play in the park?” asks Smallest-Bunny-Of-All.
Meanwhile the Easter Bunny is considering the journey ahead. She doesn’t seem to be as fit as she used to be. Maybe she has spent too much time watching TV and eating biscuits during lockdown.
Also, she still hasn’t solved the problem of the chocolate chicken.
The Easter Bunny and her family are off. They are making their way around the parish, heading for church on Easter Sunday.
But where are they today? And why are they? Who exactly is the Easter Bunny?
Well, since you ask, the Easter Bunny has been investigating her family history and so far has got back to her Great-great-great-great-great-great-and-quite-a-few-more-Grandad in the middle of Europe in the 17th century when he used to carry eggs in a basket to give children at Easter.
“We don’t have to lay the eggs ourselves do we?” asks A-Bit-Of-A-Worrier Bunny. “Don’t be silly, bunnies don’t lay eggs,” says Big-Sister-Who-Knows-A-Lot Bunny. “Will we have to ask the chickens for eggs?” asks Quite-Small Bunny. “Let’s give them chocolate eggs!” says Smallest-Bunny-Of-All.
The Easter Bunny tries to remember whether she knows any chocolate chickens.
You may have read or heard national media reports on the Church of England in decline and dire consequences ensuing. Well, not on our watch. The parish has been bucking the trend and is seeing growing congregations both online and in person.
Though we were shut for many months last year because of Covid, we’ve seen new people coming to church when we have been able to be open and lots of people joining in online with our services, groups and festivals we have run.
Lesley Crawley says: “This has been a time of extraordinary change for us all and we have had to adapt to the challenges and respond in a way which meets the needs of those around us. Going online had been one obvious response and it is something we should have done years ago, alongside our services in church. There are lots of people who would like to come to church but can’t for whatever reason – disability, caring responsibilities, ill health, shift work and the like – so being able to access online services when they like is a real bonus. What’s more they can take part by recording readings, prayers etcetera.
“We’ve also really involved people in the services in the churches themselves, ensuring that it’s a whole-church event rather than just the same people standing up the front and speaking. So we have families doing drama for instance, or reading poetry and they have really enjoyed it.
“But it’s not just the numbers, we have also thought carefully about how we relate to everyone around us. So we have, run online events – our latest is a poetry festival – and looked at how we can use the buildings better, make them more accessible, change the way we do outreach, really get serious about church health and develop ambitious plans for the future. We have seen this as an opportunity to understand what our community wants from us and how we can share God’s love with everyone so that everyone feels welcomed and valued whoever they are and whatever their circumstances.”
Watch out for more changes and growth as we continue to seek God’s will and respond to people around us.
Join us in person and online this Christmas. We have services for all ages where you will be welcome.
We have done everything we can to ensure that you will feel safe from Covid in our churches. Please wear a mask if you are able – we appreciate that not everyone can – follow the directions in the church and stay within your own ‘bubble’.
If you are not able or comfortable about coming to church, please join us online here. We will also be streaming Midnight Mass for you.
Everyone is welcome in our churches. As members of Inclusive Church we want to reiterate that, whatever your background, gender identity, sexuality, ethnicity or economic status, you are welcome. If you are neurodiverse, you are welcome; if you have mental health challenges, or a learning or physical disability, you are welcome. Whoever and however you are, you are welcome. Please ask if you need any assistance.
The CofE is what is described as a broad church. Many Churches have a Statement of Belief, and if you want to belong to their Church you have to sign to say that you agree with everything in it. The Church of England does not. Instead if you can say the liturgy with integrity you are in. Queen Elizabeth I arranged this on purpose at a time when Christians were killing each other over differences of interpretation. She said:
I would not open windows into men’s souls.
This leaves the Church of England with a wide spread of beliefs/interpretations which are legitimately held by members. I like this, it means that we know that we are not expected to know the mind of God – that as Oliver Cromwell said:
I beseech you, in the bowels of Christ, think it possible that you may be mistaken.
However, some strands of the Church of England are more comfortable with this than others. It is in some ways as though the Church is a collection of several different churches.
This is a long-winded way of saying that within the Church of England you will be able to find churches as described in the article, and at the same time you will be able to find those, like ours, which are members of Inclusive Church, and which try to welcome everybody.
There are of course other churches which welcome LGBTQI+ people more than the CofE is able to do while we struggle to work out how to do this in a way that satisfies everybody within the church.
The linked article by a vicar gives a flavour of the difficulties faced finding one which welcomes everyone.
Last month, the Church of England published Living in Love and Faith. This is a collection of resources – a book, study guide, podcasts, videos, links to online material – designed to help people to discuss and listen to God about matters of identity, sexuality, relationships and marriage.
There are a lot of resources and we have yet to work out what we will do with them in the parish. Alan and I will be talking about them shortly, when we have digested them properly, but, as members of Inclusive Church, we welcome any discussion of these important issues insofar as they enable us to understand more about each other and accept each other.
Moreover, here in the parish, we remain absolutely committed to the inclusion of all. Whether you are lesbian, gay, straight, bisexual, questioning, asexual, you are welcome. Whether you are transgender, cisgender or nonbinary, you are welcome. Whether you were born with intersex traits or not, you are welcome. God welcomes us and that isn’t going to change.
I’d also like to thank those who have taken part in this process as they have made themselves vulnerable in sharing their stories. Such vulnerability is costly and the cost has already been too high for some of the participants.
So please, whatever we do, let’s go forward with grace and love.
If you have any questions, please feel free to email me. firstname.lastname@example.org
Stella Wiseman, Inclusive Church Ambassador, Surrey
Today is Transgender Day of Remembrance, a day when we remember those transgender or gender diverse people who have died because of who they are, whether through violence, suicide or medical inequality
It is estimated that at least 409 people across the world are known to have died because they were transgender or gender diverse. The youngest was just 15, the oldest 79. That is just those who are known. Countless others have been on the receiving end of violence and abuse, have been made to feel worthless and afraid.
The church is not blameless; the church has added to the transphobia which causes this violence and abuse, these murders, these suicides, these medical inequalities. I am not saying that this parish has done so, I am not accusing any one individual church, and there are hugely welcoming and affirming churches across the world. But the church as a whole has not been like this, the church continues to discriminate and preach against those who do not fit gender ‘norms’.
There are two videos here. The first is a video here is a quiet and sad reflection about these terrible facts and a call for us to see where we can bring about a change.
The second is a deeply moving and sombre service, produced by Open Table Network
Lesley and Alan recently undertook some safeguarding training, and were reminded that the reason that the church sometimes does things differently is because most organisations can safeguard by exclusion – if they think that someone might be a risk they exclude them. The church is inclusive and welcomes all. However, the impact of this is that we need different procedures to other organisations.
The training was about Safer Recruitment, and one of the facts we were given was that other voluntary groups are getting better at this, and if the church doesn’t also do so we will become the most likely place for malevolent people to seek to infiltrate their way in.
All people helping with church activities which involve children or vulnerable adults should be “safely recruited”. We have a large number of people who have taken on roles over many years without this. It is within the PCCs authority to accept all those currently in role and implement this for those going forwards.
Safe recruitment says that for those roles which involve children or vulnerable adults:
A role description should be written; The role should be advertised (not essential for volunteer roles); An interview (which could be an informal chat for volunteer roles); References should be taken; There should be an ongoing oversight role; A confidential declaration should be completed; A review should determine whether a DBS is required.
If you would like to know more, please contact Alan.
Join us to celebrate Pride on Saturday, August 8, here online from 10am.
August 8 should have been marked by a Surrey Pride march and celebrations on the street but these had to be cancelled because of Covid-19. However, we are celebrating the LGBTI+ community and God’s wonderful, inclusive love with an online service.
There will be music, art, photography, prayers, poetry, Bible readings and reflections from individuals including a former curate of St George’s whom some of you may remember – Rev’d Paul Holt – along with Sara Gillingham, a leading intersex campaigner and great friend of the parish; Jayne Ozanne who runs the Ozanne Foundation which works with religious organisations to eliminate discrimination based on sexuality or gender; and Dr Ash Brockwell, a transgender man and educator who has contributed both a poem and hymn to the service.
There is a moving reflection on growing up as a gay man from James Muller, a Farnham photographer whose work features regularly in Vogue Italia, and who has kindly contributed many of his beautiful photographs; there is art from local people, including paintings by members of Farnham Heath End School’s LGBT+ group, and stones painted with rainbow messages to indicate God’s love for everyone.
Stella Wiseman, who leads inclusion work in the parish, explains the thinking behind the service: “The church as a whole doesn’t have a great track record in welcoming people who do not fit into a heterosexual, cis-gender box, and indeed has caused great harm to many LGBTI+ people. This is something we need to repent of and make amends for. We have no right to limit God’s love and welcome like this and to damage and destroy people in the name of God is appalling.
“Thankfully, things are changing and many churches, such as those in this parish, are more welcoming and inclusive now. Some of us would have been walking under the Christians at Pride banner in Woking on August 8th but Covid-19 has put paid to that. So instead we are organizing this lovely, colourful service online and we are delighted that members of the local church are taking part along with friends from other churches. We are really grateful to them for giving up their time to share with us their experience of God’s love and welcome and grateful too for the art, photography and music.
“Pride in Surrey is taking a Pride-themed vehicle around the county that weekend too and will be live-streaming and the parish has just been asked to send a contribution to the online Pride. The Pride vehicle will be making its way to Farnham on Sunday 9th at 10am so watch out for that too. You can find out more on prideinsurrey.org/ontheroad.”