Category Archives: St Mark’s Church

A bishop’s message: Don’t worry

On Sunday, October 7, the Bishop of Dorking, the Rt Rev’d Dr Jo Bailey Wells, joined the congregation at St Mark’s for Apple Day and Harvest Festival.

The reading was Matthew 6: 25-33 and Bishop Jo then preached on what Harvest means now and the need to rely on and trust God.

Matthew 6: 25-33
“Therefore I tell you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat or what you will drink, or about your body, what you will wear. Is not life more than food, and the body more than clothing?  Look at the birds of the air; they neither sow nor reap nor gather into barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not of more value than they?  And can any of you by worrying add a single hour to your span of life?  And why do you worry about clothing? Consider the lilies of the field, how they grow; they neither toil nor spin,  yet I tell you, even Solomon in all his glory was not clothed like one of these.  But if God so clothes the grass of the field, which is alive today and tomorrow is thrown into the oven, will he not much more clothe you—you of little faith?  Therefore do not worry, saying, ‘What will we eat?’ or ‘What will we drink?’ or ‘What will we wear?’  For it is the Gentiles who strive for all these things; and indeed your heavenly Father knows that you need all these things. But strive first for the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well.

The sermon:

Thank you for Apple Day. Thank you for planting a community garden at St Mark’s. In a 21st century suburban congregation it’s really quite hard to work out what Harvest is all about, what’s relevant in the agricultural sense to this festival and this gospel. There’s the real danger of Harvest Festival becoming something rather quaint and folks-y, something we don’t quite connect with on the daily scale of what we expect for our style of living, let alone survival. Most of us are very distant from the harsh realities of growing our own food and needing a good harvest to literally eat throughout the coming months. Even we who have gardens or allotments aren’t dependent on them for our daily bread: if the apples harvest is really pitifully tiny –as mine was last year – we can go to Aldi or Sainsburys and buy some. We don’t have to go without. And we see formerly seasonal foods all year round; we’re rather spoiled with fruits and vegetables, bread, cheese and fresh meat more or less on demand.

So today we connect to Harvest as best we can: we put things at the foot of the altar today and in the Foodbank box regularly to give to people who have no money for enough food, even their daily bread. We share what we can according to what we have, which reflects what Christian communities have done from the beginning: pooling our resources and sharing with those who are less fortunate. It’s a valuable practical response to the difficulties of facing real hunger and it’s a major witness to our living God. (How many food banks or debt charities or homeless shelters do you know run by the Humanists or the Secular society?)

Who remembers what happened in 1984 when Bob Geldof was so appalled by the scale of the famine in Africa that he got his friends together and transformed one song into a vast flood of instant support? Amazing impact, both the money raised but equally the coming together. But since? The world is in an even worse mess now than it was in 1984. Climate change (however caused), unrestricted population growth, human greed, war, religious fanaticism and economic injustice all contribute to massive insecurities about the very basics of life. And now in America there is the fear especially among women in Trump’s America that might is right, that abuse prevails, that it’s ok for teenage boys in a drunken stupor to grope women and have their way. It will take a generation to replace the current bloodymindedness with a spirit of gentleness again

The readings today reflect on a variety of things but I think one main theme connects all of them: acknowledgement of the need to rely on and trust God. The Lord hath done great things. If we have food and clothing we will be content with these. And perhaps most of all: Don’t WORRY.

The Gospel reading focusses on not worrying about what might happen. Look at the lilies, says Jesus. They don’t spin or weave; they don’t think about tomorrow; they’re clothed and watered, God provides everything they need. But the point of this story is not really about abandoning responsibility in the hopes that someone else will take care of you; or about “eat, drink and be merry, for tomorrow we might die”. It’s more about trusting God because God looks after all creation on a daily basis. This is God’s miracle.

Now….I’m not someone who uses the word “miracle” very often…but when I plant a tiny little tomato seed, I‘m having faith that it will produce a 5 foot plant with edible fruits so long as I do my bit. This is all really up to God; and is, to me, a miracle of creation. Nothing I can do, apart from trying my best to take care of it, will make it germinate and grow and give me … tomatoes.

God feeds the birds of the air; we are of more value than they are, says Jesus. We’re told to stop being anxious about tomorrow: Do not WORRY. We’re not told to ignore the fact that tomorrow inevitably arrives with its own problems whether we like it or not. We pray with confidence that God will give us each day our daily bread; not that we will be provided with all the loaves of bread we need to store up for the indefinite future so that we don’t have to exercise our normal responsibilities and duties of this life. To the Old Testament people of God during times of tremendous worry they are told with absolute confidence that the Lord will do great things and that they shall eat and be satisfied because God is wonderful and deals wondrously for his people.

Matthew’s Gospel says that Gentiles, meaning “those not of our faith” or “foreigners”, will be the ones who worry, probably because they don’t have the assurance that God is in charge and knows what we need. By contrast, our work is to “strive first for the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well.”

All these things; what we eat, what we drink, what we wear. It may not be the highest quality of expensive clothing, nor much more than daily bread and water. But it will be enough. Life is more than food and the body is more than clothing. Building the Kingdom is the work we have to do, putting into practice the two essential commandments to love the Lord our God and to love our neighbours as ourselves. We will have a rich harvest indeed if we can really do both these things.

And to return to the question of how can we feel really attached to Harvest, to make it more than a rather pale echo of when we needed to pray for rain, and then pray for fair weather, and offer prayers in times of dearth and famine – yes, you’ll find all of these in the Book of Common Prayer; written in an era when supermarkets didn’t exist, and real, grinding poverty and hunger raised their ugly heads when the harvest failed. Perhaps we can focus on not only the practical help of feeding our less fortunate neighbours, but also what we would like to harvest in ourselves and gather in, then share out. We can hopefully learn that being content with having enough is better than loving money and being dedicated to the pursuit of money to the exclusion of caring for our neighbours. We can hopefully learn to plan and have faith but not to worry about things which might or might not happen. And we can hopefully put into practice the reality that harvest includes not only a lovely show of fruit and veg and tins of soup but also the ripe fruits of our Christian faith: love of God and neighbour, peace with ourselves, generosity of spirit, and a trusting relationship with God; who may not shower us with designer clothes and champagne but who will indeed care for us all our lives.

Let me end with a story:

There is the story about old lady who was very poor. She had nothing. No shelter, no food, no proper clothes. She prayed to God and God gave her 10 apples. This was wonderful. ‘Now I can get the things I need,’ she said. She was so hungry of course that she ate the first three apples and so was full. The next three apples she traded to rent some modest shelter so that she could be safe from the rain and the sun. She exchanged the next three apples for some new clothes, so she was no longer cold at night and would look smart during the day. But there was then one apple left over. ‘Why did you give me one apple more than I needed?’ she asked God. ‘So you can have something with which to say thank-you to me,’ replied God. God gives us enough to say thank-you.

Rare murals are one of Farnham’s hidden treasures

This Saturday evening there will be a chance to learn about one of Farnham’s hidden treasures – some rare and important murals from the early 20th century, painted on the walls of St Mark’s Church.

The Kitty Milroy murals are in the chancel of St Mark’s, and were painted by local woman Eleanor Catherine Wallace Milroy (‘Kitty’) between 1911 and 1920, using other local women as models. The murals blend influences from European Symbolist painting and the Arts and Crafts Movement and following a report by Rickerby and Shekede, a wall painting conservation practice which has worked with the Courtauld Institute of Art and the Getty Conservation Institute, the works are now seen as having a unique significance. Comparisons have been made with pictures in The Watts Chapel and it is known that Mary Watts visited the area.

“These paintings stand at a critical point in the stylistic and technical development of mural practice in England, and have considerable local and national importance,” said painting restorer Nick Seversway.

The murals are in need of restoration and there will be a talk on them by Mr Seversway at 7.30pm this Saturday (October 20) in St Mark’s Church, Alma Lane, Gu9 0LT. Admission is free.

Pictures by Richard Heath.

Happy apples

We celebrated Harvest and Apple Day at St Mark’s today – Sunday, October 7 – with the normal St Mark’s informality (chaos?) – apple pancakes, pressed apples to make juice, apples dipped in chocolate, Harvest hymns, Harvest donations which will be given to the Foodbank, apple art by young people, and the Bishop of Dorking presiding and preaching on Matthew 6: 25-34 ( “Therefore I tell you, do not be anxious about your life, what you shall eat or what you shall drink, nor about your body, what you shall put on. Is not life more than food, and the body more than clothing?”). 

Bishop Jo encouraged us to share resources, to ensure that others had enough, and to be thankful to the God who gives what we need and more. Her message was: “don’t worry – be thankful, trust God”.

There was an overwhelming sense of joy and community. Happy Harvest!

St Mark's art apple day

Apple art at St Mark’s.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Celebrate Harvest!

Don’t forget it is Harvest Festival tomorrow (Sunday, October 7). Come along, sing your favourite harvest hymns and celebrate the bounty of the Earth.

You can share that bounty too – please bring tinned or dried food for the Foodbank, particularly instant mash, tinned meat, sponge puddings, jam, tinned tomatoes, UHT milk, long life fruit juice, tinned potatoes, chocolate and pasta sauce.

The times are: 9:30am at St John’s, Hale; 10am at St George’s, Badshot Lea; 11am at St Mark’s, Upper Hale; 11.30am St John’s for All; 11:30am Worship for All at St George’s.

There will be cake sales in aid of Christian Aid after the services at St John’s and St George’s, and at St Mark’s it will be Apple Day, from 10am. Read more here

“A youth club for all ages”

It’s like a youth club – but for all ages. That was the conclusion we drew at last Friday’s Table Tennis Club at St Mark’s.

Eleven of us met in the back of the church and spent the evening playing table tennis and pool, drinking tea, coffee and squash, eating biscuits and Bakewell tarts and chatting. We ranged in age from 12 to ehemty-ehem, we came from a range of places and backgrounds and we gelled. I certainly came away feeling I had made new friends and that this was the start of something.

We started the Table Tennis Club because we wanted to play table tennis and it seemed like a good idea. Thanks to a grant from the Farnham Institute we were able to buy a table tennis table, bats and balls, plus some comfortable seating. We added a small pool table when someone generously gave one away on Freecycle, a website where people offer all sorts of unwanted and useful items, and then we launched the club.

I don’t think I’d realised how sociable it would be. As there is – currently at least – just one table tennis table and one pool table we had to take turns which meant we talked. “Why don’t we have board games?” asked one person. “And I’d like to play chess.”

Why not indeed? I am going to look out my chess set and we definitely have Yahtzee somewhere. Scrabble and Upwords were also mentioned. Should we look for a Nintendo Wii which would make some sports more accessible? I recently met a woman in a wheelchair who could beat anyone at Wii 10-pin bowling, and I’m told Wii table tennis is fast and furious.

We met on the last Friday of the month as a trial and from now on we are meeting on the first and third Fridays of the month, which means that we will be at St Mark’s between 7pm and 9pm on Fridays, October 5 and 19, then November 2 and 16, and December 7 (no meeting on December 21). To join in you don’t have to be good at table tennis, pool, or even Upwords. Just drop in any time. It’s rather like a youth club but for all ages.

Stella Wiseman

 

 

Celebrate Apple Day!

Everyone is invited to celebrate the fruits of the Hale community orchard on Apple Day, Sunday, October 7, at St Mark’s, at 10am.

The celebrations will be held in the orchard, which is next to the church, and inside the church hall, and everyone is encouraged to bring their apples and put them in the apple press for freshly pressed apple juice.There will be apple songs, apple pancakes and apples dipped in chocolate, all followed by a celebratory harvest festival service in the church. The Bishop of Dorking, the Right Rev’d Jo Wells, will join in the celebrations and harvest festival.

Rev’d Lesley Crawley explained how the day has come about: “In December 2014 we planted 11 fruit trees to create a community orchard at St Mark’s. Each tree was adopted by a different community group and all except one have thrived since they were planted.

“Our first Apple Day was in 2015 because we were so delighted that our trees were bearing fruit and so we decided to celebrate! Since then we have celebrated every year by having apple pancakes, apple-y music and apple pressing. It is a great atmosphere with children and adults pressing the apples, drinking the juice, eating pancakes, listening to the music and chatting. This year with have the Bishop of Dorking joining us for the celebrations at 10am and staying on for our harvest festival at 11am. Please come and join in the festivities.”

Anyone who wants their apples turned into juice is asked to bring apples that are in good condition, picked from the tree and washed, along with clean two-litre plastic milk cartons, including the lid, to put the juice in.

Come along and celebrate!

Play table tennis in church!

We have a new table tennis club at St Mark’s, starting on Friday evening (September 28), 7-9pm.

The club is open to all ages and abilities and everyone is welcome. If you don’t know how to play or are a bit rusty, we can give you some tips, but if you are a skilled player we’ll be happy to pick up tips from you too!

We also have a small pool table so you can play on that while waiting for a turn at table tennis – or play table tennis while waiting for a game of pool.

After this Friday, it will take place on the first and third Fridays of the month – October 5 and 19, November 2 and 16, December 7 (no meeting on December 21).

The club has been made possible by a donation from the Farnham Institute which paid for the table tennis table and some soft seating for anyone waiting.

For further details of the club call Stella Wiseman on 07854 426297 or email news@badshotleaandhale.org

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

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”.