Category Archives: Lent

Your March Magazine is here

The March issue of the parish magazine is out with plenty to read inside: Lent, Easter, Mothering Sunday, school news, our new florist who moves into St Mark’s at the start of the month, exciting news about the Kitty Milroy murals and Emily the organ, prayer, news from the parish and the local MP, the Church Cat and lots more.

You can find the magazine below. But if you would like a paper copy, please let us know by emailing Anne Young:

The cover price of the magazine is £10 for the year which pays for the editorial costs. We would be grateful if those accessing it online would pay £1 an issue. You can pay by clicking on the button below:

The magazine is available here:

Ash Wednesday during lockdown

Wednesday (17th) is Ash Wednesday, the beginning of Lent, though for most of us it has felt like Lent for a long time.

On Ash Wednesday many Christians go to church and have a mark of ashes placed on their foreheads as a symbol of repentance and following God. This year there are still services but there are differences as we will be following Covid guidelines.

There will be a service at St Mark’s at 12pm and St John’s at 7.30pm and there will also be a service here online and on Facebook and YouTube from 9am. You will need to bring your own ash suitable to place on your forehead and if you need advice on how to make it, watch this video here, courtesy of St Nics, Durham:

Contemplative prayer during Lent

Join us online during Lent for a quiet prayer session on Thursday evenings at 8.30pm.

The pattern will be some reflective liturgy, two short sessions of silent, meditative prayer, followed by liturgy based on Compline.

The first session will be on Thursday, February 18 and the session will be available via Zoom and please email Stella Wiseman if you would like to be sent the link.

If you are uncertain about getting in to Zoom calls you can have a practice run on February 16 at 8.45pm. Please contact Alan Crawley about this.

Your February Magazine is here

The February issue of the parish magazine is out. It’s full of information for this month, particularly about pancakes and Lent, along with articles on food waste, giving north Farnham a voice, eco living, Climate Change, a word from the local MP, prayer, the Church Cat and lots more.

You can find the magazine below. But if you would like a paper copy, please let us know by emailing Anne Young:

The cover price of the magazine is £10 for the year which pays for the editorial costs. We would be grateful if those accessing it online would make a donation of £1 an issue. You can donate by clicking here.

The magazine is available here:


Next month we move into Lent which begins on Ash Wednesday, this year February 17.

Lent is that six-week period leading up to Easter, a time of reflection and prayer, a time when people often ‘give up’ something – chocolate, alcohol, social media etc – as a type of self-discipline and active reflection.

It is a solemn time but also a time of looking forward, moving from the barren darkness of winter to the new life and light of spring. This winter has been particularly dark as we have faced Covid-19 and all that this has meant, but there is hope that we are on a slow journey to light.

With this in mind, our Lent observance will focus on looking forward and looking outwards, seeing how we can grow our ministry to our community.

There will be a sermon series in the three Sunday services at the churches plus the Wednesday service at St Mark’s, and in the online Sunday Morning service. This will start on February 21. The Lent groups will also be following this theme and will meet on Zoom. They will be on Tuesdays 2.30-4pm, Wednesdays 7.30-9pm and Sundays at 1.30-2.30pm, especially for families.

Please contact Alan on 01252 820537 or to tell him you are interested in coming to Lent Groups.

If you want to follow your own Lenten reflections here are suggestions of devotional reading, courses and books.

A different way of experiencing Lent

Life seems very strange at the moment. Some of our parishioners are still working, some of them are working for the NHS and are working extremely hard so that the rest of us receive the care and attention that we need if we are ill. Many are suddenly finding that they have to work from home and others suddenly find themselves with no work. Those of us who are retired and over the age of 70 are being advised to self isolate especially if we have underlying health problems. None of us is supposed to be socialising; we can only go shopping for food or medicines and even if we go out for walks we have to keep our distance from all those we meet. As Archdeacon Martin said in the daily bulletin from the diocese of 31/03/20 “We are currently walking though uncharted territory. The terrain is rough, unlevel and hard to negotiate and the destination is unclear.”

To me the fact that all this is happening during Lent is making me feel that this year we are all experiencing Lent in a way we have never experienced before. We may not be fasting in the sense of giving up chocolate or whatever we usually “give up for Lent”. We are fasting in a completely different way. We are not able to take part in one of the Lent groups. We are not able to attend a church service. We cannot even go inside the church and pray privately. We are all experiencing the sense of deprivation, the sense of being without something that is precious to us. We cannot meet our friends. Many of us live alone and although we may not feel lonely in the way some elderly people who have no family and no friends feel lonely, we are experiencing a sense of isolation. It is also in a way quite claustrophobic and can cause a sense of panic as you wonder when this will all end. So it is a period of fasting but it is more like the experience Jesus had when he was in the wilderness. In a way we are all in a form of wilderness. We have never experienced anything like this before and it is frightening.

In amongst the fear and sense of isolation, there is goodness – people are communicating with each other, they are phoning or sending emails – checking that everyone is alright. People are offering to get shopping for neighbours and friends and generally being supportive. I am witnessing a sense of neighbourliness and caring that is growing. So out of that wilderness is coming love and caring.

In Alan’s sermon on Sunday he referred to the question of suffering. Jesus never told us it would be easy if we followed him. There was no expectation that we would be free of suffering. If people who were believers found themselves free of suffering and pain then everyone would become believers but for the wrong reason. They would only believe because of what they would gain. There is no love in that, no real indication of a real faith. It would not necessarily create a very pleasant world. Jesus taught us that we should love one another. Real love is not free of pain. When people suffer pain other people become more caring. So out of pain and suffering comes love and caring. God knows about pain and suffering and when we suffer, when we feel pain then God walks beside us. Maybe you have experienced this – I certainly have. I realise that I may be accused of over-simplifying the question of pain and suffering but I hope it makes you think about it.

Pamela Marsham


Picture by Arto Marttinen on Unsplash.

A letter from the Bishop of Guildford

Bishop Andrew, Bishop of Guildford, has written the following letter to be shared among all parishes in the diocese:

Dear Friends,

The last few days and weeks have been a confusing and bewildering time for us all. A growing number across our communities have contracted the coronavirus, of whom a small proportion have died. A far greater number are now self-isolating, including many able-bodied men and women over the age of 70. Social gatherings have increasingly come to a halt. The economy is in freefall.

And yesterday we all received the news that church services are to be suspended for the time being, so as to seek to contain the virus: another unprecedented move at a time when the very word ‘unprecedented’ is becoming almost a cliché.

In all this there has inevitably been much talk of closures, cancellations and postponements, including the postponement of a visit of the Archbishop of Canterbury to our diocese, which was due to begin today.  Is the Church just shutting up shop, people might be wondering – to which the answer is a resounding No! For this current crisis is a time for Christians (including we clergy) to step up not to give up: to let go of what’s less important so as to focus on what’s most important: to be not just the Church of England but the Church for England; to go deeper in our commitment to what Jesus described as the greatest commandment of them all: to ‘love the Lord our God with all our heart and mind and soul and strength, and to love our neighbour as ourselves’.

So how might we love our neighbour at this time? Perhaps through committing ourselves to ten acts of kindness every day, especially in relation to those who are poorest and most disadvantaged among us: making sure that our Foodbanks remain properly stocked with provisions and volunteers; leafleting streets with offers to pray and to help; arranging for daily phone calls to those who are frail and housebound; joining in with local community initiatives (because Christians don’t have a monopoly on good ideas or compassion).

Even the self-isolating can love their neighbour at the end of a phone-line, or in front of a computer, or by writing a good old-fashioned letter. How about expressing your appreciation of your Vicar, for example, at a time when she or he is likely to be feeling really pressurised?

One of our churches has followed the Italian example in providing a little outdoor concert for those who are self-isolating in a block of flats in their parish. Another has taken round a hamper to their local GP surgery, to express their huge admiration and support of those on the frontline. Clergy will shortly be invited to join a diocesan Facebook group to share good ideas and learn from one another; and do please consult our diocesan website daily as we respond to the most pressing questions that are cropping up in our churches and our schools.

Loving our neighbour is one thing, but how about loving the Lord our God when corporate worship is on hold? What might that look like?

As you know, we’re in the season of Lent, 40 days and 40 nights in which Jesus went into self-isolation, to be tested, yes, but also to pray, to meditate on the scriptures and to deepen his sense of calling for the future. During that time he was echoing the 40 years that Israel spent in the desert before entering the Promised Land: a time in which there was no church or temple, but just a makeshift tent (the tabernacle) in which Moses used to meet with God day by day.

So how might we meet with God over this time as we take time out to pray, to meditate on the scriptures and to reflect on our calling, now and in the future? What’s our tabernacle? Again parishes around the diocese are being really creative on this one, keeping their churches open where possible, providing spiritual resources for those who need them, making use of technology to help people feel connected, and above all praying, and calling others to join in. This coming Sunday the Archbishops have called us to a Day of Prayer, symbolised by putting candles in the windows of our houses and together lighting it at 7pm. And again there are some wonderful resources appearing on the diocesan website to help spiritually nourish us during this time in the wilderness.

Loving God, loving our neighbours; and how important too, to love ourselves at this time: to be kind on ourselves as well as others, as we all adjust to a rapidly shifting landscape.

And so finally to God’s Word through the prophet Isaiah: that ‘I will give you the treasures of darkness and the riches hidden in secret places, so that you may know that I am the Lord, the God of Israel, who calls you by name’ (Isaiah 43:5). So what might be the treasures of darkness during this time?

Perhaps a new togetherness as a nation, following the deep divisions of the Brexit debate. Perhaps a new connection between the church in England and the people of England. Perhaps deeper discipleship and new vocations arising out of those forty days and forty nights of self-isolation (or however long it lasts). Perhaps a new commitment to prayer, and above all a new recognition of the sheer wonder of the Christian gospel – that nothing (not even loneliness or sickness or death itself) can separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus.

And, in recognition that the call to suspend public worship fell on St. Patrick’s day, a prayer from St Patrick’s Breastplate:

Christ be with me, Christ within me,

Christ behind me, Christ before me,

Christ beside me, Christ to win me,

Christ to comfort and restore me,

Christ beneath me, Christ above me,

Christ in quiet, Christ in danger,

Christ in hearts of all that love me,

Christ in mouth of friend and stranger, Amen’.


Every Blessings,

Bishop Andrew

Listen or watch this message here


The reading for this Sunday is about Nicodemus– and yet it is also very tempting to preach on the last two verses!  However, I am going to resist and look at Nicodemus.

Nicodemus was an influential religious man, he belonged to the Sanhedrin, which met every day in Jerusalem.  And yet he appeared not to understand metaphor!  Or chose not to.  The word translated “from above” can also be translated “again” – an interesting aside is when Christians ask if you have been born again, do they mean from above?

The imagery of being born again was common at the time in both Jewish and Gentile culture – it was used for Jewish converts (two sources I have disagree about this!) and for various mystery religions.

It perhaps becomes obvious which Jesus meant when he goes on to talk about being born of the spirit (the aside about the wind would have come about because in both Hebrew and Greek the word for wind and spirit is the same), and the similarity of the two is that they are both only visible by the impact that they have.

So, to paraphrase, Nicodemus goes to see Jesus at night (never a good sign in John’s Gospel which frequently compares light and dark, day and night) and says that “we” recognise your signs as coming from God – but when Jesus tells him that he must be born from above, to be born of the spirit, he wavers.

Of course it is also possible that he was fully aware of what Jesus was saying to him, but was unwilling to take the steps required and was replying in kind – a kind of verbal tennis.

The question then becomes “what about us?”.  Are we willing to be born from above – to change our lives?

There are long arguments in Christianity about which beliefs are “orthodox” – leading to excommunication for those who do not conform – but in this passage Jesus appears to more interested in “orthopraxy” – right practice.  At least with this we can try to do the right thing.  I know of no way to force myself to change my mind if I don’t believe something, but I can make myself do things.

So – the last two verses!  I couldn’t resist.

John 3:16 is perhaps the most quoted verse in the Bible – it used to make a regular appearance in the crowd at sporting events, but how was it being used?  To me it felt as though it was being used to mean: “For God so loved the world that he gave his only Son, so that everyone who does not believes in him may not perish but may not have eternal life”.  And yet the following verse suggests to me that this is far from God trying to catch people out, but trying to help us.

Now surely that is a God worth believing in – and a God worth responding to.



There are obvious links here to theories of atonement, and in particular penal substitution.  Whilst I don’t like the theory on its own, when taken with other theories I find that it can add something to the whole idea of atonement.  However, to do this I find it helpful to remember that Jesus was both human and divine, and that in the Trinity God is Father, Son and Holy Spirit, and as the Athanasian Creed says :

Such as the Father is; such is the Son; and such is the Holy Ghost.

So, instead of God requiring Jesus to go to the cross, it is God too who goes to the cross, which makes in more an image of love than an image of vengeance.

So God puts and end to the need for sacrifice by self sacrifice!