Rector's letter for Ascension Day

Some of you will be aware of the fondness of church dignitaries - or spiritual writers (the two are not always the same!) - dating their latest writing with the title of the pertinent church festival on which it is published. A rare opportunity then for me to write in such grand a vein. It is Ascension Day!

This is an important festival for the Church, though a difficult one to post-Enlightenment eyes. There’s no doubt that it meets a logical necessity - that the Jesus who was risen and among them, is once more away and apart from his earthly congregation - but it is more than that, too. However, hard it is to embrace some of the classical paintings of an upwardly mobile Christ; this is a day in which to think ‘glory’ and ‘heaven’and to begin to contemplate the exalted nature of our Lord. It is resurrection beyond those forty days, and for a timeless audience. It is why we speak such daring words of Jesus, earthly friend and also heavenly King. I was glad it was The Ascension as, this lunchtime, ten permitted people joined at The Oaks for the funeral of one of our parishioners who was admired and loved in our parish. It was truly moving to see those of the parish who came out to stand along the roadside, or within the walls of the churchyard, as her funeral cortege passed through the village. Thank you. And I am further asked by her family, to extend thanks to those who have written in such generous manner over the past weeks as this day has drawn nearer. Your greetings and prayers have been deeply appreciated.

We enter now into a short period in the Church’s year, between the great events of The Ascension and Pentecost. Things have changed, and are changing still further in our liturgical celebration of the story of Christ. In particular, the intervening period is urged upon us as one of concentrated prayer: thoughtfulness and intercession, in which everyone can engage. We pray both for a heartfelt understanding of the Majesty of Christ; and for the gift of God’s Spirit, without whom we would forever be in the foothills of our spirituality. Our prayer, in these days, resembles that of the gathered disciples: who awaited, they knew not what, or whom, but that the promises of Jesus were ringing lively in their ears.
The wider church helps us to pray in these times, and I commend to you the following ventures.

Firstly, Bishop Martin invites all who would join him to spend 15 minutes daily in prayer with him at midday in the coming period. Join him through the Diocesan Website, , or via the diocese’s social media channels. There will be thought and prayer, and a few minutes of shared silence, each day. One of the features as the Bishop prays for the Diocese is his holding in prayer different deaneries from day to day, which on Monday 25th will include our own Deanery of Westbourne. Such local prayer is also a part of a wider international project at this time each year:‘Thy kingdom come’. Designed at its outset to be a venture in which Christians might pray for the same five people who are upon their hearts over each of the ten days. The idea may be to think of friends and acquaintances who are not presently churchgoing Christians, but I think it comfortably extends beyond that to any five people, within our care, whom we would especially like to commend to God’s blessing at this time.

More details can be found at ‘’. Lastly, amongst the more serious matters of our fellowship of faith, I’d like to
thank everybody who is ‘making a go’ spiritually of these difficult times, and especially those who are joining in our local broadcast worship, extending love to friend and neighbour, and praying beyond their own need for those mostcruelly afflicted or challenged by the present pandemic. Thank you to those who are making a difference; those who are reaching out in love; those who are seeking God’s strength and sharing wisdom and solace, humbly as they can.

As we pray for the Spirit liturgically, may we know God’s grace personally: both as individuals; and as a community, whose heartbeat is love.

Andrew Doye Rector 01243 372867

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