Rector's Blog

Ch-ch-ch-changes

September 13th 2020

Well, it’s been a week. We have had more changes this week. Just for a change.
In the parish, we have been thinking towards coming back into our buildings for
the 27th of September. That was supposed to be the day we had our first indoor
service at St John’s Okewood.

However, it seems our hard working leadership team might have to think again
when we meet on Monday the 14th. This week some time, in St John the Baptist
church, some of the plaster fell off the ceiling in the nave. We have had to lock
the building again in case it continues. Builders have been called and the
buildings team have been notified.

It seems that we have a lot of challenges ahead of us. Please pray for our
leadership team as we meet and discuss the way ahead. We are trying to find a
way to move us back into the church buildings whilst staying compliant with
government regulations.

Through this difficult time we need to remember that we are actually meant to
be having fun as Christians. Jesus came to give us life in abundance! We need to
keep space for this. I’m looking forward to finding some ways to have fun and
celebrate together. The youth and children’s team are going to be getting
together to think about how we can do this. And we have plans afoot for an
outdoor advent extravaganza of some kind. Physically distanced around a
campfire.

We can do this together. We need each other though. And we need to be willing
to work together in a spirit of forgiveness and love.

Many blessings, Reverend Clare


What do you want?

Article for News & Views | Summer 2020

Sometimes it’s hard to decide exactly what we want in life. Jesus often asked people what they wanted him to do for them. It seems pretty obvious that the blind person would want to see, that the lame person would want to walk.

However, he still wanted them to ask.

For myself, I want to have all the people I love and like living close enough to me that we can pop into each other’s houses for a cup of tea. I know that is not going to happen in this life, but I want to work towards it. So that means making friends where we are.

In my work as a priest in our parish, I want people to be able to meet Jesus, in any way possible. That is my main task as Rector here. We are told that as Christians we are part of the body of Christ. This part of the body has been looking rather different in the past months.

We are now starting to meet outside in our garden on Sunday mornings which has been wonderful. This will continue for the moment, as will our Facebook Live broadcasts. In the very near future we are looking forward to working with Stephen Backhouse who features in our Autumn News & Views. We are going to be thinking about celebrating our faith through some of the things that are important to us in this parish. So look out for a launch party soon!

What do you want? I would love to hear.

Reverend Clare is available to chat most days (Friday is her day off) but has a specific telephone surgery on Wednesdays 9.15 -10am 01483 273 604


The Parish Gardening Project

Article for News & Views | Summer 2020

Like many people, Will and I have been spending a lot of time in the garden. I have discovered a love for lopping. We have a lot of overgrown laurel in our garden, and we are trying to clear some of it to let the light in.

A couple of times I have had a massive lopping and sawing session which hardly seems to have had an effect other than hurting me. I have learnt to go at it slowly. This is a long term project.

Our Parish is a long term project. In our leadership team we are starting to dream about what we would like to do if money were no object. Our ideas are going to take time. And they are not going to be free. In June, we are going to be asking people to prayerfully consider how they might be able to contribute to our Parish. We have plans for our future, and we need your help.

Our Parish is new. We are starting to get to know each other. There are so many wonderful things already happening, even through this time of lockdown. I have seen such evidence of God’s love at work during these difficult few months.

We long for the day when we will be able to offer hospitality to each other. Until then, let’s get to know each other so we can work on this long term project together.

If you have any questions about our future, don’t hesitate to contact me: 01483 274 604 revclareshepherd@gmail.com


Won't you be my neighbour?

Article for News & Views | Spring 2020

Will and I discovered the Everyman Cinema in Horsham last Friday. What a great experience! You sit on a comfy sofa and you can have food and drink brought to you. We watched A Beautiful Day in the Neighbourhood, mostly because Tom Hanks is one of Will’s heroes. And what a thought-provoking and positive film it is. The story follows Fred Rogers, a well loved children’s TV presenter who changed the lives of millions of American children. He assured them that they were loved and accepted simply for being themselves. He asked them to be his neighbour.

I have been challenged recently to think of our parish as a family. The church is the family of God. How different would our society be if we truly treated each other as brother and sister, as parents and children? Families can be a source of immense support and comfort. However, we know that those closest to us have such power to hurt us as well. Inevitably, families have to learn to sort out their problems and differences in order to live together. In this parish we have had a rocky year. My illness right at the beginning of my ministry here has made it difficult for us to get to know each other.

At the time of writing I am still coming back to work part time. At this time I really want to concentrate on rebuilding our family ties. On getting to know you. Among other things I have been going to our two coffee mornings on Wednesdays. I have now started holding office hours on Wednesday from 9.15am - 10am for anyone who wishes to contact me. You can of course always contact me on revclareshepherd@gmail.com or 01483 273604.

It is going to take time for us to get to know each other. I am committed to taking all the time that we need. I am looking forward to seeing what God does in our parish in the next weeks, months and years.

In the meantime, there are lots of neighbourly, family-building events happening around our parish. Check out our events page and get involved!

It would be lovely to see you at any of our Easter events. As you read this, Lent will have begun and we’ll be running our Tuesday night (7.15pm) Lent course again, this time based on the dramatic BBC TV series Broken with Sean Bean. It is a hard hitting and often quite harrowing series that will help us to discuss some deep issues about faith and about the church. All over 18s are welcome to come to this.

So, neighbour, I hope to get to know you better soon. God bless you all.


The search for cozy

Article for News & Views | Winter 2019

As winter blusters towards us I find myself drawn to all things cosy and safe. I want to wear my fluffiest jumpers and my warmest socks. I find myself craving open fires and warm baths. This year Will and I have bought an electric blanket - it’s bliss.

This search for cosiness has been intensified for me this year. I have had a long period of illness which has been very difficult this early in my ministry in the Parish. Through my recuperation I have realised three things. I need a safe place to call my own. I need safe people around me. I need to be able to ask for what I need. These are all elements in the search for cosiness and comfort.

We all need these things. Around this time of year we are all drawn towards the

safe, the familiar. Christmas is a very cosy thing for many. Throughout the Parish we have many traditional Carol services and Christmas events. In the last couple of years things have had to be a little different as we have come together as a single Parish of three churches. I believe that this is a wonderful thing. However, change can feel a little threatening.

The story of Christmas is far from cosy. God who made the universe came to earth in human form. God chose to experience life as part of humanity, the highs and the lows. God did this so we could know God through the person of Jesus. It’s not a cosy tale, but it is one that will bring us life in all its fullness. This is way better news than my electric blanket.


Addicted to busy

Letter to the Parish | Thursday 4 July 2019

Dear EOFG Parish,

My name is Clare Shepherd and I am an addict. I admit it. I am addicted to being busy. So this period of getting better and trying to go slowly is not easy. I don’t like waiting around. Patience isn’t one of my greater virtues.

I have had to learn to slow down a bit in these last months. In the first week after my heart attack I went to visit my friend Alice, who is also a priest. She had something to do in one of her churches for an hour, and so I had an hour to spend on my own. It was a beautiful day, and all I had to do was buy Alice a cup of coffee. I went to the local coffee shop and stood in the queue.

It was the slowest queue in the world. I couldn’t believe it. The lady behind the counter was in no rush at all. I felt so frustrated, I almost offered to get behind the counter to give her a hand. My breathing went shallow, my palms got sweaty, I almost walked out of the shop. And then I realised. I am addicted to hurrying up. I have a need to be busy all the time, to be going from one thing to the other. I hate being bored so much that I will fill my time full of distractions in order to avoid boredom. And maybe, just maybe, it makes me feel a bit important to be busy all the time.

I’m doing the assembly at Ewhurst Infant School on Thursday this week. They are learning about emotions this term. This week they are learning about pride and they have asked me to tell a Bible story about this. Straight away I thought of the story of Jesus being baptised. This can be found near the beginning of all of the Gospel accounts. As Jesus is being baptised, the voice of God can be heard saying ‘You are my Son, whom I love, with you I am well pleased’.

God was pleased and proud of Jesus even before he had started his ministry. He was proud of him just because of who he was. We are told that as Christians we are adopted children of God. He loves us just as much as he loves Jesus and he is just as proud of us. Nothing we can do can make God love us any more than he already does.

I have become a bit better at allowing myself to be not busy. I’ve always found that the best things in life tend to happen when I have time to stop and chat with people. It has been good to have time to remember some of the things I like doing. I’ve been reading a lot, and have been walking, and just sitting in our front garden which is one of my favourite places in the world. I’ve also enjoyed watching Will work - he is creating some patio areas in our garden which will make it easier for us to entertain people here.

But now I’m coming back to work. My work hours are going to be gradually building up. I can feel it coming back, this feeling that I should be rushing around, trying to solve all of the problems as quickly as I can. I need to remember that God’s love for me is not in any way relative to how busy I am. God just loves me and is proud of me. God loves us all, unconditionally. I wonder what a difference it would make if we really believed that.

With love from Rector Clare

 


Rethinking Leadership

Letter to the parish | 30th June 2019

Dear EOFG Parish,

What a glorious week we are having. Somehow everything seems better when the sun shines. It has been a good and productive week for me. Quite varied. It’s frustrating to only be working a few hours but this has made it necessary for me to think about what my priorities are. One of my big tasks has been to think about our leadership structure here in the parish. 

Our Monday Ministry and Mission (MMM) team has been meeting every week, after the 10am Morning Prayers at St John’s Okewood. This has been open to anyone who wishes to be involved in leadership in our parish. This has been the main forum for leadership and vision in our parish on a weekly basis. I am very thankful to all who have been faithfully attending these groups. 

I am changing this team slightly. From now on I would ask that all who wish to attend the Monday Ministry and Mission team do so after coming to the prayer group. This will enable is to have our meeting in a spirit of prayer and unity. I understand this will mean more of a time commitment. Please do not feel you need to attend every week. 

The MMM team will henceforth deal with the day to day running of the parish. We will review the previous week and we will plan the next week. This is still an essential part of our parish leadership, especially at this time as I am not working every day and I need to be kept up to speed on what is happening.

Longer term planning and vision setting will be done by the leadership team. This team comprises the Church Wardens and a few others. We are looking forward to moving our parish forward to find out the plans God has for us. We will be shortly sending out surveys to see where we are now as a parish.

I would welcome your ideas about new ways to create community and improve our church services and our presence in our community. If you have a bright idea please fill in one of the forms attached to this email and send it to will.shepherd@me.com

I am pleased to announce that we will be running a Confirmation class for those who wish to explore taking this important step of faith. We have a group of mixed ages. I am proposing to run this course in September in readiness for confirmation in our Deanery on Sunday the 20th of October. This course will likely run on a Monday or Wednesday evening from 6-8pm for 4 weeks. Please contact me on revclareshepherd@gmail.com if you are interested. 

My recovery is coming along well. I had my first session of cardiac rehabilitation on Wednesday and I pushed myself physically for the first time since the heart attack. It was great, and now I am pretty tired. It’s such a skill, learning how to listen to my body’s needs on a day to day basis.

With love from Rector Clare


Why I Love Mondays

Article for News & Views | Summer 2019

Did you know 37% of job applications are submitted on a Tuesday (abcnews.com)? That's how powerful Monday can be. But I love Monday because it's the day I reset for the week and that reset starts with prayer.

At 10am on Mondays you'll always know where to find me: at prayers at St John the Baptist, Okewood. Usually there are around 12 of us, sometimes we've had as many as 16: folk from all around the parish, and many who stay for the Ministry & Mission meeting afterwards. 

We pray in all different styles - in silence, out loud - using the Northumbrian Community words and structure. It's just a way of getting together with others and talking to God. There's no special skills required. I'm reminded of Sister Wendy, the nations favourite nun who said, "Accept that God is good and that our relationship with Him is prayer and you must conclude that prayer is an act of the utmost simplicity." She's right!

I've said it's about talking to God, but - and here I also need to be better - it's also about listening. This is where being silent and sensitive to the small, inner voice - the Holy Spirit - is important. When we've reached out in prayer and asked for guidance or healing, we need to wait and trust. Sometimes we get feelings or impressions. Other times we get promptings: "Go and call so and so, she needs a call". Sometimes words from the bible, poems or songs can enter your mind. When I returned from hospital recently, I prayed and was immediately reminded of a song with the refrain, "His eye is on the sparrow, and I know that he watches me." It was incredibly comforting. A word from God that he was with me. Praise him!

We also need to hear from God to know where he is leading us. Jesus said:

“‘I am the good shepherd; I know my sheep and my sheep know me – just as the Father knows me and I know the Father – and I lay down my life for the sheep. I have other sheep that are not of this sheepfold. I must bring them also. They too will listen to my voice, and there shall be one flock and one shepherd.” - ‭‭John‬ ‭10:14-16‬

So come and listen to God. You see, prayer can be a wonderful conversation with our Creator. On occasions, as well as blessing and comfort, you will get tough convictions: "Stop behaving in such and such a manner", "Start giving more generously". These can be hard directions to hear but I can guarantee that God will be patient, merciful and kind. And the only consequence I've experienced of being obedient has been a radical sense of freedom and very often subsequent blessings. 

Whether you come to Monday prayers or not, I encourage you to pray. Keep checking in with "Big G" as Will's Dad calls him. He's always there with a loving word. He's always got your back. He gives you the dynamism and direction to a fruitful future: a life to the full.

Of course I keep praying through the week, and we get together for a second session in Ewhurst on Thursdays at 10am. But it's because prayer starts and surrounds the week that I look forward to Mondays so much. 

With love from Rector Clare


A Parish United
Article for News & Views | Spring 2019

In response to President Trump’s call for a wall between the USA and Mexico, Pope Francis said, “A person who thinks only about building walls, wherever they may be, and not building bridges, is not Christian. This is not in the Gospel.” I like that. And only two weeks ago I was preaching on the “unity of the body”, a passage from Paul’s letter to the Corinthians. It’s all about combatting division:

 “The human body has many parts, but the many parts make up one whole body. So it is with the body of Christ. Some of us are Jews, some are Gentiles, some are slaves, and some are free. But we have all been baptised into one body by one Spirit, and we all share the same Spirit.”

That bit about Jews and Gentiles for us could read: “Some of us are Ewhurstians, some Okewood folk, and some are from Forest Green.” But today, we are one parish: one community. And I hope we can be increasingly bound together with one spirit.

Unity is what our new logo is all about (see fig 1.).

It is made up of two trinities (see fig 2.).

The earthly trinity of our three communities is - in my vision at least - united with the heavenly trinity of Father, Son and Holy Spirit. When these two come together graphically, a wonderful flower shape emerges.

For me that symbolises the growth and hope that the unity of our parish will bring to our community. And I love that, though united, you can still see the three individual churches represented by three colours. Rest assured, unity will never mean uniformity.

Of course a logo is just a symbol. And very much a symbol of intent. But I hope you take away from this explanation of its creation that we can do amazing things as a united parish  - working together, serving one another, and, of course, walking in union with Jesus Christ.

With love from Rector Clare


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Page last updated: 11th September 2020 1:25 PM