- Today is a slightly sad Sunday for me, and for one of my Sherborne clergy colleagues. It is the last Sunday on which The Reverend Lindsay Collins will preach for us at the 9.30 am Parish Eucharist, and the last Sunday at which I will preach at her invitation at the Sherborne School evening service at 8.15 pm in the Abbey. Lindsay leaves at the end of term to become Senior Chaplain of the King’s School, Canterbury. The Sherborne link continues: her next Chair of Governors is none other than my predecessor as Vicar of Sherborne, The Very Reverend Robert Willis, Dean of Canterbury.
Lindsay has been a wonderful Chaplain of Sherborne School, and a very good colleague to me and all my clergy colleagues at the Abbey. We wish her every joy in her new appointment. Then we turn to welcome her successor, The Reverend Dr David Campbell, currently Senior Chaplain of Marlborough College. He and his family can be assured of a warm welcome when they arrive over the summer.
- Ascension Day is celebrated this week, on Thursday 25 May. It is a pivotal feast, which alone makes sense of Pentecost, Whit Sunday. The risen Christ has been with his disciples since Easter Day, teaching them and encouraging them about what is to come. But his physical resurrection still confines him to be in one place at one time. When he is in Jerusalem he cannot be in Galilee. When he is in Emmaus he cannot be in the Upper Room. On Ascension Day he returns into the fullness of the Kingdom of Heaven, and the Shekinah – the divine cloud – hides him from the disciples’ sight. At Pentecost he returns in His Spirit: no longer confined by time or space, but available to everyone, everywhere.
By long tradition the Abbey Choir greets Ascension Day from the top of the tower at 7.00 am. They sing Ascension hymns facing north, south, east and west. If the weather is unkind, they will still sing, but in the Abbey itself. There is a Book of Common Prayer celebration of the Eucharist in the Lady Chapel at the normal Thursday time of 12 noon. At 7.00 pm there will be a Sung Eucharist (with incense). I have invited one our Team Vicars, The Reverend Lesley McCreadie, to preach. We are still working at the dynamics of being a Team Ministry, but one thing I know – the clergy team will become increasingly more flexible and ever-ready to support special events in all our churches. And that has to be a good thing.
- Our summer programme of Insight Lectures continues in June with a celebration of the vote 25 years ago by the General Synod of the Church of England to allow the ordination of women to the priesthood. The title of our celebratory lectures is Canterbury Tales. The first will take place on Monday 5 June when a member of our College of Clergy, The Reverend Nelva Moss, gives us The Vicar’s Tale. Then on Monday 19 June our guest lecturer will be the very first woman to be ordained to the priesthood in the Church of England, The Reverend Prebendary Angela Berners-Wilson. Though Angela is currently Rector of the Quantock Towers benefice, much of her ministry has been spent as a university chaplain. So her lecture is entitled The Chaplain’s Tale. All the lectures take place in the Church Hall, Digby Road, at 7.30 pm. Tickets are £5 each, and are available from the Parish Office or on the door.
- Plans for a Parish Pilgrimage for 2018 develop. It will be a Pilgrimage to Germany in the steps of Martin Luther, to commemorate and celebrate the 500th anniversary of the 95 Theses and those other historic events which are generally held to mark the start of the Reformation. We are honing-in on 4 – 14 June, and plan to visit Worms, Mainz, Eisenach, Erfurt, Eisleben, Wittenberg, Regensburg and Augsburg. All are key sites in Luther’s life. We will also take a boat trip down the Danube to Walhalla on one of the ‘relaxation’ days! I need to know roughly how many of you might be interested in this trip, so the Parish Office has begun a list simply for registrations of interest (with no commitment at this stage). If you are interested, do sign-on, and then you will be amongst the first to receive a brochure when they arrive. They are due very soon!
- Meanwhile, for very good reasons, our 2017 trip is to Ethiopia (25 October – 6 November) now has three empty places. Illness cannot be anything other than respected, but obviously I would like to fill those places if possible. Please contact me to discuss the possibilities, or simply to request a brochure, if you are at all interested. It could be the trip of a lifetime.
- Our very popular monthly Short Abbey Service takes place this month on Sunday 28 May at 11.15 am. It will be taken by The Reverend Richard Wyld. It is a child-friendly service for everyone, and all are welcome. Please note, however, that from September the service will move to the third Sunday of each month to avoid clashing with the Parade Service at St Paul’s.
- As previously announced, on 9 June our Honorary Third Verger Richard Churchill will turn 65, and has decided to retire at that time. Then on 28 July our Senior Second Verger, Stuart McCreadie, achieves his 66th birthday, and has decided to retire two days later, on Sunday 30 July.
I have opened a fund for donations to mark Richard’s retirement, and invite you to send or deliver your gifts to the Parish Office in envelopes clearly marked “Richard Churchill retirement”. Cheques should be made payable to Sherborne Abbey. Richard has also been our Flagmaster, and our principal Concert Caretaker, so he will leave some major gaps in the Abbey’s life. Meanwhile, I will open a fund for donations to mark Stuart’s retirement on 10 June, a day after Richard has retired. If you wish to make a gift before then, please do so, in an envelope firmly marked “Stuart McCreadie retirement”.
- Philip Prout, the Manager of our Abbey Shop, tells me that he is in urgent need of two more volunteers, one to cover alternate Mondays and the other to cover alternate Tuesdays. This is a very pleasant voluntary opportunity, and one which is important to the Abbey, not just in financial terms but in outreach and mission. If you are interested, please contact Phil at firstname.lastname@example.org or call in to see him or telephone the shop on 01935 815191. Many thanks.
- Sherborne Churches Together has asked me to arrange and chair GENERAL ELECTION HUSTINGS, and I have been in touch with all the candidates and/or their agents. We have agreed to hold the hustings on Tuesday 30 May, at 7.30 pm in the Digby Memorial Church Hall. The Conservative, Green, Labour and Liberal Democrat candidates have all agreed to attend, and UKIP has advised me it will not be fielding a candidate this time.
I will be happy to receive questions in advance of the meeting. Please either hand-in a written question at the Parish Office or email me at email@example.com Please also indicate whether you would like me to call you to put the question, or would prefer me to put it on your behalf. Either way I will need your contact details. It’s a depressing thought, but I can probably only take a total of six questions. Each candidate is usually allowed three minutes to answer the question (which should be addressed to them all) and there are four candidates. You can do the maths for yourself! I will also ask each candidate to begin with a short “pitch” to introduce themselves and their key policies, dreams, visions….