From us to you:

Together @ St. Mary's


I wasn’t anticipating writing any more of these letters, as you know, but recently we have lost two friends: one female, one male; one a church goer, the other a Church Street trader - by name Pat Ingham and Tony Mumford and I didn’t want the opportunity to pass without reminiscing and paying tribute to them both.


The indefatigable Pat Ingham was unforgettable. She ran the Mother’s Union branch at St Mary’s for decades. When I say "ran" I mean in the same way as a military commander would run a campaign. It amused many of us that, as a life long objector to gambling, she it was who organised a raffle at almost all the Mother’s Union events, usually with far more prizes than people who were present!


Pat was a kind woman, a sincere woman, a practical woman, an organised woman. She led the Prayers of Intercession at church in her own inimitable way. With that down-to-earth Yorkshire accent, it was as though she had made an appointment for an interview with one of her children’s Head Teachers and was explaining to them what, in her considered opinion, needed sorting out.

She could be intensely serious, she could be outrageously funny.


She would host annual Christmas Parties for the Sacristans at her flat overlooking the tennis courts in York House Gardens. She and her great friend Audrey would have prepared a real Yorkshire Tea. It was the sort of meal that filled you up so much that you didn’t need to eat again until at least the next day. Her rich fruit cake was a must, which she had made herself, with Audrey stirring the thick unrelenting mixture until her arm ached. Then there were party games and party hats and it wasn’t until I had been to one of Pat’s parties that I knew that Christmas really was on its way.

Pat has been a member of St Mary’s for as long as many can remember. She and I only overlapped for the last two decades, but during that time I recognised in her what people mean when they describe people as being "the salt of the earth". Life had more taste with Pat, more flavour, more zest, more bite. She took great care as she read the newspaper every morning, to keep well informed about current affairs and would frequently cut out articles she thought you might be interested in and gave them to you in re-re-re-cycled envelopes.


Pat was clever too, going to Manchester University to study, Manchester because her childhood sweet-heart Trevor, whom she subsequently married, had been accepted there, so off she also went. She became a history teacher, where she met and taught Audrey. And in retirement she made sure that she kept the little grey cells alert and active, joining the University of the Third Age and studying Italian and German. The Italian came in very useful when she joined some of us on a trip to Rome and Assisi some years ago. She found the incense "a bit much" but joined in with all the fun with great alacrity.


It was entirely thanks to Pat that people went to the Nightingale Nursing Home each month to sing hymns and that I went to celebrate Communion there for the residents. Many of you will have fond memories of this remarkable lady but for me one thing stands out and that is her capacity for saying THANK YOU. I don’t think I have ever heard anyone say Thank You as sincerely or as frequently as Pat. On every occasion I met with Pat she found something to say Thank You for. Gratitude was at the core of her. We will miss Pat more than she could possibly have imagined, but I can see her now in my mind’s eye, asking forensic questions of God about His universe and His plan for humanity; detailed questions about obscure parts of the Bible she craves clarification of; praying with real insight and empathy for the needs of the people of a world she so loved living in, relished the experiences of wonder in and cared about so deeply. This time it is for us to say to her, Thank YOU Pat for making our lives more interesting, more informed, more integrated and far more enjoyable than they might otherwise have been and please know that our fondness and respect for you goes on, as indeed do our prayers.


The second person from the Twickenham scene who has left us recently, indeed within just a few days of Pat, was almost 40 years Pat’s junior. Tony Mumford, from Toe Knees Shoe Repair Shop in Church Street, the best cobbler I ever knew. "You save souls, I save soles", he would say to me. A gentle man with asking eyes, appearing insecure when you first encountered him, but it was only as he weighed you up. Because of his gentleness, some took advantage of that. At one point there was a sign in his shop telling people that violence would not be tolerated. "What prompted that?" I asked him. Apparently a woman had picked things off the counter and started throwing them at him. He didn’t recognise her, but she was demanding that he gave her a pair of shoes that she claimed he had been mending for her, she’d lost the receipt but he had to give them to her NOW!


Tony it was who, when we needed huge keys cut for the north door of the church when the reordering work was going on, sourced the seven inch whoppers and cut them perfectly. Tony it was who, when we had trouble with an ancient key for the Blessed Sacrament safe which refused to work, found a solution which saved the day. Tony it was who, with great care and skill, re-covered one of our much venerated volumes of the Bible, blackening it sufficiently to please even the deepest and most ardent Victorian taste. A few months later I popped in to ask him if he would mend some leather slippers I was devoted to and couldn’t cope with throwing away. "Of course I can," he assured me, "I saved a bit of that leather I covered your Bible in, I will use that, that would seem suitable.........I knew it would come in useful one day". He subsequently gave my venerable slippers an even longer life span, using disused car tyres cut to the shape of my feet and stuck on, "that should last you a few more years", he grinned and they have, and will.


It was a pain which cut deep into his being some months ago when his granddaughter was diagnosed with a rare illness and died at a young age, I think on Good Friday. I would pop in for a chat and check up on him, irrespective of whether or not I needed a key cut, a new battery or strap for my watch or a pair of shoes mending. He could do all of these things, but he could also do so much more. It was not just keys he cut, watches or shoes he mended, he also repaired lives through careful and courteous listening, through genuine generosity of heart, through kindness and gentleness, through integrity and some rather dark humour too. He was always a pleasure to be with.


Tony died, as you may know, at the age of 53, as a result of an accident in Heath Road on July 15th while on his e-scooter. He was in a coma for days following his fall, and died on 22nd July leaving Cheryl his partner, children, grandchildren and so many customers who had become friends.

I often thought about Tony on Maundy Thursdays as I was washing people’s feet. "You can tell a lot about people by their feet and how they treat their shoes", he would say and the Christ who also tended to people’s feet would have agreed with him. Tony got to know those of us who also got to know him; his was not merely a commercial interaction with his customers, but one which was laced with deep humanity and humour. He gave us something of himself and asked nothing in return, except to be paid and not to have things thrown at him!


We are still in shock at the fact and the cause of his death, but how wonderful to be remembered only for good things, for being generous, gentle, caring and kind. Tony was all of these things and redefined for me what personal service is all about in old fashioned shops and business of this kind.

May both Tony and Pat find their way to what lays beyond. If they meet en route they will certainly have a lot to talk about. We are the richer for having them as part of our lives and each in their own way, is unforgettable. Rest eternal grant to them O Lord and let light perpetual shine upon them. May they rest in peace, may they rise in glory, through Jesus Christ Our Lord. AMEN.


With blessings and best wishes

Jeff


*****


ZOOM AND MORE

I hope you will have received and read the Pastoral Letter which was sent out explaining the pattern of worship for the next month or so. For the time being we will be continuing with Zoom at 9.30am and the Celebration of the Eucharist at 6pm in church. I hope you will join us for at least one of these services and will continue to remember the rest of the church family in your prayers. You can join us this Sunday for our ZOOM SERVICE at 9.30am by clicking on the following link: https://us02web.zoom.us/j/85685339742 or in person in church at 6pm. You no longer need to book for the 6pm service. You can also join us for Private Prayer in the church 10am-11am on Wednesdays. The readings this Sunday, as we celebrate the Transfiguration of the Lord, are: Daniel 7 verses 9-10 & 13-14 and Luke Chapter 9 verses 28-36. The Collect: Father in Heaven, Whose Son Jesus Christ was wonderfully transfigured Before chosen witnesses upon the holy mountain, And spoke of the exodus He would accomplish in Jerusalem: Give us the strength to hear your voice and bear our cross That in the world to come we may see Him as He truly is, Who lives and reigns with you, In the unity of the Holy Spirit, One God, now and for ever. AMEN.




My dear Friends,


Most of us had anticipated a return to church for worship by now and therefore an end of these letters. However, for reasons you may have read about in an earlier letter, it was decided that we continue to celebrate Communion in church at 6pm on Sundays and also to Zoom at 9.30am until such time as the rise in the Covid infection rate has reduced and stabilised. And as we needed to send out an email with the Zoom log in information anyway, here’s another letter!


You could, of course, just skip to the end to where the log in information is contained and I would not blame you at all. But should you wish to read on, I am borrowing from what I said at last Sunday’s services when we looked at that wonderful passage from Mark Chapter 6, verses 30-34 and verses 53 to the end, which you might like to re-read before reading on. I thought it might be good to reflect further on this passage because it very much speaks to us in our current situation and as we prepare ourselves for the future.


I draw particular comfort and strength from one line in that sequence of verses, namely: "Christ had compassion upon them, for they were like sheep without a shepherd". It is that abiding and powerful sense of a compassionate Christ who, like any shepherd, wants to keep His flock safe that I have sensed more strongly over this past year or so than at any other time in my ministry. As someone who has been invited to share in Christ’s priestly love for His people, that priestly love from Christ the Good Shepherd has been like a bright, warm, light, igniting my path and my prayers for the past year. And, partly promoted by this vision of the need to keep united and be supportive and protective of one another, which has led so many of us to make an especial effort to keep in touch with others over this past year, send emails, make phone calls, join together on Zoom or in church every Sunday to be strengthened and inspired by a deeper awareness of that core truth which sets us free: that God loves us. That He cares about us personally and passionately. That He wants to reassure us and accompany us though all the things which we are experiencing.


I have been struck by something more than just a few of you have said to me over recent months, that it has been a powerful revelation to find that, lovely as it is when we do, we have not needed to meet in church in order to "be" Church; we have not needed to meet in a designated "sacred space" in order to experience a sense of the Spirit; we have not needed to physically take Communion in order to feel the presence and refreshment of Christ feeding and flowing into our lives. The power of the Holy Spirit has not been limited or restricted by the limitations or restrictions imposed upon us as He has helped us feel united as members of His sacred flock.


And may that sense of a compassionate Christ grow, deepen and become ever more real to each and every one of us as we deal with the circumstances in which we find ourselves; as we perhaps miss seeing those we love as often or as freely as we would wish; as we feel anxious still about mixing in busy places; as we worry about the rise in the infection rate despite the vaccine roll out; as we hear of the increase in number of those in hospital due to Covid; as we feel frustrated with the caution we still need to observe in order to protect ourselves or those we care about. Like you, I am just so glad I didn’t know in March 2020 that we would still be affected by this virus to the extent to which we are, in July 2021!


But this passage from Mark tells us more. Christ loves us, cares about us, has compassion for us, but He also has things for us to do. He chose not to do everything Himself, He shared the work, the responsibility for building the kingdom, with others. We find here the disciples coming back to tell Him all that they had been up to. One of them, with whom I can particularly relate, says, "we didn’t even have enough time to eat, we were kept so busy!" And it is this connection between the work of the Spirit and being resourced and refreshed by the Spirit which I would like us to think about as we prepare ourselves for the work which awaits us as our community, country and world begins to recover from the Pandemic and rebuild lives, economies and hope.


Katherine and I have recently filmed a sequence of sessions for the school based on the life of St Benedict. A major part of his contribution to the life of the Church was helping us to realise that in order for us to live our lives in the light of Christ and in the strength of the Spirit, there has to be a balance. We can’t just work all of the time, else we would just collapse with exhaustion. We cannot just rest all the time, for that would be sheer indulgence and a waste of the gift of life. We cannot even just pray all the time for that would be not to acquaint ourselves with what and who to pray for in the world and to see and serve Christ in the lives of others. Thus Benedict constructed the monastic day to be a balance of all three of these things. A third of the day would be spent doing some sort of work: social, physical, intellectual. A third of the day would be spent in prayer, adoring God and allowing Him to adore us and bringing into that presence in our prayers, the needs and troubles of others in the human family for whom we wish to intercede. And a third of the day would be spent in relaxation and sleep, the better to be equipped and resourced for the continuing challenge and opportunity of living.


Though you and I do not spend our lives in monasteries, convents, cloisters of cells, we would do well to ensure that there is a creative balance in our lives for us to live full, useful and fulfilling lives. I will leave you to ponder the rest and sleep element, I am sure you will be able to work that out for yourselves, but what of the work you and I are called to as followers of Jesus Christ and how might we find the resources for doing that work? There has to be a balance, a creative relationship, between these for us all. I have mentioned to you before that time when I was doing parish experience in Sussex before being Ordained. I was as enthusiastic and energetic as a young puppy. I hardly stood still, I was always visiting, taking part in discussions at the local church, doing people’s shopping for them etc. I rushed back into the flat where we were living one morning to collect a book I had promised to lend to someone. I was just dashing to the door when I suddenly heard this authoritative voice resonating in my soul, it clearly said, "Jeff, when did you last enter into my peace?" I felt so crushed. Of course I had been doing things in my own strength and probably to my own glory, not in God’s strength and not to His glory. It was a lesson well learned. I crept into the prayer room and crouched, humiliated, in prayer. Humbly I offered myself to God that I would do His work to His glory, not what I considered worthy of my attention, not what would make me more popular. And this has been something I have tried and failed and tried and failed and tried again to do throughout my ministry: to live, work, prioritise, as God would have me do and to rely not on my own strength, but rather, on the strength of the Spirit for so doing.

In this passage from Mark’s gospel Jesus is concerned that His disciples spend time recovering and receiving as well as generously giving. He cared about them in their humanity, vulnerability, weakness. He cared about them compassionately and caringly. And that is how He looks at us too. But resourced for what? What is the work He calls you and me to now in 2021 and beyond?

Perhaps: To transform the world. To make His love known to all. To challenge injustice and unfairness. To celebrate the healing effect of reconciliation. To ensure that the poor are adequately clothed. To ensure that the hungry are fed. To ensure that those without access to clean water, have it. To offer support to those who find life a struggle. To nurture and encourage, educate and protect, children and young people. To play our part in ensuring that the issue of climate change is addressed properly and effectively. Actively to ensure that the exploited have their dignity and freedom given to them. To see that the lonely are loved. That men and women of integrity stand for public office. That financial resources are seen as potential for helping others and not for being kept as something to offer comfort for ourselves alone. That we find kindness in our hearts for that person we find impossible to like. And so many other things besides.......


For each of us Christ’s calling will be slightly different, depending on circumstances, history and opportunity, but it is for each and every one of us to seek a practical application for the gospel imperative to make our discipleship count.


The need for followers of Jesus to take their place in celebrating the dignity and purpose of human life and contribute to the rebuilding of hope in the world, is acute. We are also called to offer to society a vision, not a random collection of self serving individuals, but a vision of the Christian understanding of community, equal and complementary, the stronger for it to become. The work to which Christ calls us is fundamental to the wellbeing of our planet and its people and Christ offers us the creative energy of His Spirit that we may build His kingdom in the opportunities and challenges which await.


As we are able, let each of us say a resounding YES to His invitation to be a constructive and creative, caring and compassionate component in the communities and in the creation in which He has placed us. Let us continue to support, encourage and pray for each other as we play to each other’s strengths, to make that creative difference to a world which is in so much need of such influence and inspiration.


With renewed blessings and best wishes


Jeff