A Christmas Carol

There is something magical about a good story and there are few storytellers as good as Charles Dickens. When he published A Christmas Carol he wished that it would “haunt (our) houses pleasantly”, and that “no one (would) wish to lay it”. The power of his storytelling was that, 172 years later it is still haunting us most pleasantly and far from laying it, we call up its spirit again and again.

The magic of the tale kept an audience enthralled on the evening of December 5 at a one-man rendition given at St Mark’s Church in Hale, Farnham. To be fair, it was not just the tale that had us spellbound, it was the way it was told by Jonathan Jones, who is often seen around Farnham in his guise as Town Crier. On that Saturday he had cast off his green crier’s coat in favour of a red velvet jacket and sat comfortably in an armchair in front of the altar. From here, though he did not stay seated for long, he told us the tale of Ebenezer Scrooge, Bob Cratchit, Tiny Tim, nephew Fred and the three Ghosts – Past, Present and Yet to Come.

It is a famous story which plays unashamedly with our emotions, and Jonathan drew on all its clever devices so much so that I actually found a tiny tear in my eye for dear Tiny Tim, and though I knew the ending well, I was still relieved when… spoiler alert… Scrooge saw the error of his ways.

All of this was told without a note, an impressive feat of memory and acting, with differing voices and even conversations between characters, all the more impressive given that Jonathan is not a professional actor.

After an interval during which mulled wine and homemade mince pies were served, Jonathan was back in his armchair with a set of Christmas poems and stories. He had done his research and gave us the background to poems such as The Night Before Christmas – originally A Visit from St. Nicholas, and written by the American Clement Clarke Moore in 1822. Not all the offerings were as schmaltzy as this one, not certainly the tale of Jabez Dawes, as told in Ogden Nash’s The Boy who Laughed at Santa Claus, nor the truly funny Twelve Days of Christmas by John Julius Norwich which details the rapidly declining romance of Edward and Emily.

The evening was held to raise money for another Emily, likewise in decline, this time Emily, the 103-year-old organ at St Mark’s which is in desperate need of a complete overhaul. The fundraising was clearly important, but what felt equally important was the community coming together for an evening of entertainment in a village venue that seems well suited to such events. I look forward to more soon.

Stella Wiseman

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Pictures by Lesley Shatwell and David M Moore, courtesy of Farnham Herald

The Teddy Bears’ Picnic

On Sunday it was lovely to see such a variety of teddies at out the Teddy Bears Picnic service – over twenty cuddly toys came along and to celebrate with their owners and what a wonderful joyous service it was!

Joyous… and a little chaotic at times (as the press photographer was rather enthusiastic at the start and the recorded music on occasions didn’t always agree with the service sheet) – but this was a celebration and time for laughter as well as a time to reflect and feel the closeness of God.

Thank you to the whole team (and this was very much a team effort) for all your efforts. Thank you to the congregation for singing so well, thank you to the youngsters, who got stuck in and just thank you all for making it the celebration it was meant to be.

Photo credit: Georgie Fry

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Pictures of the Prayer Tent

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Here are pictures of our first prayer tent at the Carnival, set up by:

Holy Family Catholic Church

Bethel Baptist Church

Weybourne Baptist Church

Hale Mathodist Church and

St Mark’s, St John’s and St George’s Anglican churches.

There were four stations set up inside that included lighting a candle, planting a seed, writing on stones and a prayer wall.

Farewell to Barry and Sandra

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On 17th May we said farewell to Sandra and Barry Hall at their last service with us before their move to Bournemouth to be with other members of their family.

Seven years ago, Sandra and Barry returned to live in this Parish, having both grown up in the area, and married in St George’s. Since becoming part of the congregation again, they have given of both their time and their talents unstintingly to the Parish, and Margaret Emberson acknowledged all that they had done in her speech to them. Sandra was thanked for all that she did as churchwarden, for the letters written, invoices and bills sorted, quinquenials and inspections arranged and dealt with, and meetings attended with clergy and other dignitaries in the parish and diocese. In addition, she accomplished a multitude of tasks, many unseen, which enabled our worship to run smoothly and kept our building in good order. (In fact, two weeks after her departure, one of the ‘new’ churchwardens was overheard to say that it was amazing how many little things Sandra did that people were unaware of.)

As if that were not enough, Margaret added, Sandra also gathered a team together to visit local schools as part of the Open the Book scheme. A group from this parish visits two local infant schools to read and enact Bible stories. Sandra arranged the rehearsals, sorted out the costumes, found props and liaised with the schools.

Turning to Barry, Margaret thanked him for playing the organ so beautifully every Sunday. (And in this he followed in the footsteps of his father, Charlie, a well-known and well-loved resident of the Parish, who had been a member of St George’s congregation and choir for over 75 years, and who was also the organist for many of those years.) Barry chose the hymns every week, practiced them, organised the choir, arranged concerts, played in the Parish Band and also for Baptisms, Weddings and Funerals.

Like Sandra, Barry also carried out a multitude of tasks to help with the smooth running of the church. He put things up in the loft, and got them down again when required, he raised the flag for the appropriate occasions, repaired or replaced countless items, and ensured the heating was on when the church or church room were being used.

As Margaret said, everything that Sandra and Barry did, they did with care, integrity, honesty, loyalty, endless energy, and always with words of encouragement.

In addition to the time they spent with their church involvement, Sandra and Barry still found time to pursue their own hobbies. Sandra, with her love of plants, enjoyed flower arranging, and also baked regularly for charity events. Barry was a member of the local tennis club, and maintained his interest in meteorology, which had also been his career occupation. He regularly contributed an item for this magazine, and indeed we have a ‘bonus’ contribution this month, since Sandra and Barry’s move did not take place quite as soon they had hoped.

Margaret Emberson, on behalf of us all, thanked Sandra and Barry profusely for all that they had done, and wished them well in their future in Bournemouth, saying that they would be in our thoughts and prayers as they begin their new life there. Flowers and a gift were given to them in as a mark of our appreciation.

Photos by Georgie Fry, Article by Margaret Dyer

More plants and a bug hotel!

On Sunday 26th April twenty members of the local community met to plant 400 wildflower plugs in the Community Garden at St Mark’s Church. These included Red and White Campion, Greater Stichwort, Foxgloves, Violets, native Bluebell, Sweet Woodruff, Red and White Deadnettle and Hedge Woundwort. Once established, this area will be managed as a spring meadow with the grass cut in July after flowering and seed has set. The cut grass will be cleared off, composted and used to mulch around the fruit trees in the newly established orchard adjacent to the wildflower planting. The new wildflowers will encourage pollinating insects to visit the garden and orchard.

You may also notice a ‘bug hotel’ in the grounds that was built by the church youth group “Adventurers”, which meets on Monday evenings. This hotel will further encourage a diversity of insect life into the garden.

Finally there is a flower bed near the Upper Hale Road entrance to St Mark’s with spring flowering bulbs that have given a wonderful show. The congregation of St Mark’s sowed, Cornflowers and Poppies in the flowerbed as part of their Patronal Festival celebrations on 26th April.

The project has been funded thanks to a generous donation of £1000 from the Farnham Institute.

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The Beauty of St John’s Churchyard

Churchyards are special places. They often contain a rich diversity of plant and animal life, they are important places for archaeology and history, they often have distinctive and veteran trees and they provide a tranquil place for quiet reflection. The churchyard at St John’s Church in Hale is kept immaculate by a band of hardworking volunteers and their dedication is recognised and enjoyed by many.

Last year, a man wrote this letter to the Revd Alan Crawley, Joint Rector, and accompanied it with a bunch of flowers for a couple of our volunteers, “Since 2008, every four weeks on a Saturday I have driven past St John’s Church in Hale on my way from Kent to Hampshire. Without fail, come rain or shine, snow blizzard, fog or blustery gale, I am always amazed to see two people, …sweeping, cleaning, brushing, washing, collecting leaves and debris, unravelling and coiling extension cables, wheeling barrows and keeping the entrance to the church clean and tidy. Their hard work and dedication is a shining example and a credit to your community.”

The Mayor of Farnham, Cllr Jeremy Ricketts says, “It is always a pleasure to visit Hale Churchyard and see the inspirational work carried out by the volunteers. It brings community together in a fun, thoughtful and spiritual way. It represents the living heart of the Hale community for all to see and enjoy.”

The Revd Alan Crawley comments, “Often people ask me whether it is the best kept churchyard in Surrey. Of course, I don’t know. But I have been told that when the current team started maintaining the churchyard the grass was three feet high. The hours and they dedication they put into keeping it tidy is a credit to them and to us. My fear that the day they stop doing it we may find the grass three feet high again!”

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