Rectory notes June 2021 – Summer of grace

Summer – what a wonderful word! The days stretch and relax. The sun shines (or not!). Warmth fills our bodies – winter’s cold becomes hard to imagine. Memories of childhood summers, lying back on the grass with gloriously nothing to do but gaze up at the deep blue sky and pick out animal shapes in the drifting clouds. A pint in a pub garden. The smell of suncream. Of bar-b-ques.

What are you doing this summer? Less traveling than in others, perhaps. In whatever way Covid chooses to cramp our summer style, the season will still sing for us its song of joy and life, of vibrant flowers and fresh air, of laughter and love.

By strange design the church’s calendar makes space for it. The year’s top performers cram into half the year – Christmas, Good Friday, Easter – with supporting acts from Advent and Lent, Pentecost closing the show. Then the stage clears. There is space for summer. Space to inhale more slowly the deep truths of those great festivals, of birth and death and resurrection. Space to allow grace to touch us in the everyday and the simple. Space simply to be.

So to finish, a poem of grace.

Sensing Grace

My days are full of possibilities,

none more exhilarating than

when I cross the threshold of grace.

Sky opens and space clears,

A radiant landscape

of belonging unfolds

And held, circled by love,

I stand in sunlight

And remember faithfulness.

Warmed and awakened

I am stilled by wonder

And breathe deeply

of this subversive beauty.

Grace never loses its power

to startle,

to wrong-foot

to scandalise.

Limitless and

immeasurable,

There

are

no

strings

attached.

Chris Matthews, https://www.presenceproject.com/

Rev David Carrington

Team Vicar of Escot, Feniton and Payhembury

The Rectory, Station Road, Feniton 01404 850905 This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

Rectory notes May 2021 – Images of service

It’s less than 24 hours since the funeral of the Duke of Edinburgh as I write this. The images are raw. The military precision of the procession in the bright sunshine. The Royal family, grieving but together. Most of all, the Queen in the double pain of her husband’s funeral with Covid restrictions. The first glimpse of her seated in the limousine, face-masked. Then most poignantly of all, sat in the Chapel isolated from her family members. Vulnerable and frail, she walked the painful path so many others have done in these past months, her mourning cramped by Covid. Like her parents walking the war-time bombed-out streets of London, she was one of us.

As the years have passed I have become an increasing fan of the Queen. The saga of the Royal Family ebbs and flows – they are a family, after all. The Queen, for me, is in her own league. There have been moments when she appears to have found dealing with the changing world difficult. But the dedication, service and humility she has resiliently shown over so many decades is extraordinary.

The Queen is, of course, head of the Church of England. Her formal title is quite a mouthful – ‘Defender of the Faith and Supreme Governor of the Church of England' (I had to look this up!). She is therefore my most senior boss. As in all jobs, it helps if you respect your boss. Thankfully in this case this isn’t difficult.

My favourite portrait of Christ in Scripture is from St Paul in his Philippian letter, most likely quoting an early Christian hymn:

…though he was in the form of God,
    he did not regard equality with God
    as something to be exploited,
but emptied himself,
    taking the form of a slave,
    being born in human likeness.
And being found in human form,
    he humbled himself…

The Church has not always reflected this humility of Christ well, too often favouring lording it over more than serving people. The Queen’s instinct for humble service has made her a true Head. Prince Philip’s unwavering support for her helped her live this out.

Bugles rang out in St George’s Chapel at the funeral service’s end: the hope of resurrection is sounded. We are in the Easter season. As the Queen steps onward, in her service and in her own valley of the shadow of death, may her step be lightened a little by that hope – for her husband, herself, and her nation.

Rev David Carrington

Team Vicar of Escot, Feniton and Payhembury

The Rectory, Station Road, Feniton 01404 850905 This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

Rectory notes March 2021 – ‘Rainbows, candles and tunnels’

The year is 1897. You’re driving a horse and cart through the newly opened Blackwall Tunnel, beneath the River Thames in East London. You’re nervous – how can it be safe to travel under water?? But you are more tense for your horses: how will they handle this enclosed space? Kinks in the tunnel prevent you seeing its end*. You’d love it to be straight, and be able to see the light at the tunnel’s end. But you’re glad the horses can’t. You coax them forward. You round the final bend, daylight appears – and the horses are off, bolting to the exit. There’s no holding them back now.

A year ago we entered a tunnel: a lockdown tunnel, enclosed, with intermittent spells more open to the sky. Lockdown Anniversary Day approaches: a painful marker of loss of lives, livelihoods, and richness of life. We thought we saw the light at the end, for it only to be another bend. We could not have imagined the tunnel would be this long.

In those early days we galloped, thinking – hoping – it was short. Rainbows sprouted in windows. They brought hope and optimism, a joyful tune lifting our shocked hearts. They bring smiles still, every time. Yet rainbows are transient, whimsical even. Their pure positivity can wear out in the prolonged pain. Rainbows don’t work in the night.

The tunnel has been long. So we’ve needed light that lasts the distance – an unknown distance. Light that can travel through the tunnel with us, be always present. Light to take us through a winter, literal and metaphorical.

In front of me is a candle, a simple tea-light. It doesn’t display a glorious arc of spectral colours. It isn’t exciting. It’s humble, vulnerable-looking even. But it’s steady and constant. It bears an honesty that the world around is dark. And its small yet intense flame transmits a resilient hope: reassurance that it will always overcome the dark. In its steady constancy can be seen the Light of the World.

We have learned in lockdown to be ‘tunnel people’. We hope to see the light at the end – our rainbows. Even more we need light in the tunnel for the journey. My tea-light is one of a box of 100 – there’s plenty of uplifting light to come! We need those encouragements to keep moving forward – maybe we’re more like the horses in the tunnel after all.

Rev David Carrington

   * I discovered this whenever visiting family North of the river as a child (not via horse and cart).

Team Vicar of Escot, Feniton and Payhembury

The Rectory, Station Road, Feniton 01404 850905 This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

Rectory notes April 2021 – Does life win?

It’s Saturday of Easter weekend last year, on the hill above Feniton. It’s dawn. We can’t hold our usual Sunrise Service there the following day due to this new national ‘lockdown’. I am making a fumbling attempt at filming an introduction for an Easter video service. And the sunrise is perfect. The huge orange ball emerges inch-by-inch above the hills over Honiton. At the end of the year I will compile an album of 2020 lockdown photos – that sunrise is now its front cover.

Resurrection comes. Often slowly, but it comes. Those compact three days from the first Good Friday to Easter Day give us a pocket-sized picture of life. There’s been a lot of Good Fridays this past year: so much pain and struggle and tragically death. Covid-19 has joined the ranks of the destroyers of life, gleefully hammering another nail into the cross. Mercifully we are now armed with vaccines to mount a defence.

There’s been a lot of Easter Saturdays: that difficult point after the worst has happened – at least we hope it has – but we don’t yet see a future. A time when we fear that evil does in fact have the last word, that life will be squeezed out. A time of deep doubt. Yet a time when doubt is OK – for where can new life come from?

And then there it is – new life! Our resurrection from national pandemic restrictions is slow – Step-by-Step, week-by-week. But emerging we are. We can feel the warming rays of freedom begin to touch our bodies again. Our muscles can start to stretch once more. Life is edging back.

Where was God in those ‘three days’? Was he just in the resurrection? No, Christ travelled the whole journey, present in the death and darkness as much as in the life, with us every inch of the way. Indeed he led the way. He showed there is a way through.

Last autumn I planted Spring bulbs in our garden. I have little natural faith that what I plant will grow. Yet they have done so! Each one is a tiny miracle of life and colour. Resurrection comes slowly. But it comes. Whatever is thrown at life, life still wins.

Rev David Carrington

Team Vicar of Escot, Feniton and Payhembury

The Rectory, Station Road, Feniton 01404 850905 This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

Rectory notes February 2021 – ‘The graph of peace’
“Who would like to sketch a graph on the board of Covid cases over the past year?” the
teacher asks. Draw a graph?! In front of everyone?! But you can probably have a go. So
donning your face-mask and keeping social distance, you sanitise your hands and take the
board marker. You start… A big rise last Spring… a gentler descent… the flattish summer…
and then in the autumn up again – and up, and up some more…
This graph has become part of our lives. It’s on our TV screens and internet. The
Government wants us to know it. It guides our understanding and behaviour. It guides them
too. I visualise the Government having health indicator graphs splashed over one wall, and
economic indicators on another. Graphs are good. They convey things clearly.
But other graphs exist too. More personal graphs. “Now,” the teacher continues, “on a
piece of paper this time… sketch how anxious you’ve been over the past 12 months. No-one
needs to see this, unless you want them to... Now draw one of how many times you’ve been
more than, say 5 miles, from your home” (‘Or simply beyond my gate,’ you mutter)… “A
graph of the pressures in your household… Your income… How much you’ve spent on junk
food…”
National graphs don’t reflect our personal picture. Our own graphs matter. Away from the
imaginary classroom, now sitting at home, these graphs are our lives.
But only part of our lives. For there are other graphs, uplifting ones. What would one look
like of how much you’ve appreciated family and friends in the past 12 months? Or your
thankfulness for the simple things in life? Or the diverse yet continual beauty of nature over
the past year? Or the joy in birdsong? You will have your own.
How about – even a graph of God? Can we really venture this?? Why not. His love – a
constant and reliable flat line, infinitely off the scale. His voice – likewise level, a still word
spoken into our storms. His peace – a stable line midst our wild oscillations.
Let us select the graphs we dwell on. Let us draw on St Paul’s words, ‘The peace of God,
which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus.’ In this
time of fluctuation, may this steady peace be with us all.
Rev David Carrington
Team Vicar of Escot, Feniton and Payhembury
The Rectory, Station Road, Feniton 01404 850905 This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.