Monthly Archives: May 2020

Pentecost Reflection – Rev Alison Way

Pentecost Service available via

Acts 2:1-21 – John 19:19-23

Come Holy Spirit, fill the hearts of your people and kindle in us the fire of your love. Amen

When it comes to talking about the Holy Spirit, both we and the Bible tend towards using pictures that are aspects of our living natural world. At the very beginning of our Bibles – the spirit of God is described as moving over the water at creation, and in different translations have that as a mighty wind of God. Jesus also talks about the spirit as working like the wind. In a conversation in John’s gospel with the jewish leader Nicodemus, which we thought about back at the beginning of Lent has Jesus saying.

The wind blows wherever it wishes; you hear the sound it makes, but you do not know where it comes from or where it is going. It is like that with everyone who is born of the Spirit

Another aspect of the natural world we use is our breath, in the evening of the first Easter day as we heard in our second reading. Jesus appeared to his disciples and said

“Peace be with you. As the Father sent me, so I send you.” 22 Then he breathed on them and said, “Receive the Holy Spirit”.

And then a final aspect of the natural world we use is fire. Our first reading today captured that as it said that after the noise like a strong wind blowing. They saw what looked like tongues of fire, which spread out and touched each person, and this happened at the moment they were filled with the Holy Spirit.

From the very start of Jesus ministry, the Holy Spirit is associated with fire (passion, enthusiasm, action). John the Baptist said to the gathered crowds early on in Matthew’s gospel

 I baptize you with water to show that you have repented, but the one who will come after me will baptize you with the Holy Spirit and fire

We use all these pictures for the Holy Spirit from the living natural world for a variety of reasons. Firstly, it helps us make something that is difficult to put into words more tangible. What the Holy Spirit is and is all about is difficult to understand All these things wind, fire, water and breath are living and variable – as the nature of God’s Holy Spirit with us is living and variable.

Secondly, with wind and fire, water and breath – there are aspects of otherness about these things too and things that are beyond our control. Watching the flames dance on an open fire, when cosy and warm – can bring renewal, but fire can also burn wildly and burn things up, remember the bush fires reaping great destruction in Australia at the beginning of this year. With the wind, the Spirit of God, can be like a cooling breeze on a hot day bringing refreshment, but also an icy blast with serious wind chill on a cold winter’s day can be disturbing and hurry our action. With water having a nice warm bath or a refreshing shower is good, but any experiences we have had of the damaging effect of too much water through flooding, reminds us how powerful water can be. Then with breath – Taking a deep breath in, can help us to pause and inspire our thought, but being in a situation where we are struggling for breath can be extremely scary…

In short what the Holy Spirit of God wants for us is always for our good, but not necessarily comfortable or cosy. Though God’s love for us should be a great comfort and strength, the way the Holy Spirit works in us and through us at times can be challenging too. If you like faith brings comfort not a comfort blanket God will give us the strength we need for each day.

To continue to use the natural world analogies:  we need to welcome the warm  breeze of the Spirit as well as the icy cold winds of winter to help us. For us the people who know Jesus as Lord, we see in this hope, the Spirit of God moving from death to life, encouraging and urging us on. All movements of the Holy Spirit we experience point us to Jesus and the work he did for all of us through his life, death and resurrected new life. The work of the Spirit he left with us to keep sharing his love with others and to give us God’s love that lasts forever

Looking at how the Spirit works – there is no better example than in the disciple Peter. Just see how it gripped Peter in the story of the first Pentecost that Gill read us. By this stage Peter is totally reliant on God, and acting in accordance with God’s will for him and encouraging and amazing things are happening all around him. He is really open after the difficulties of his journey to this point. We see the disciple Peter stand up and speak out for the first time. He is such a good example of the empowering of the Spirit, building on the gifts that Jesus saw in him and the impact of his journey up to this point.

Remember Peter was not a practiced public speaker, but a fisherman made good by the power of the Holy Spirit in him. He proclaims how God will pour out the Spirit upon all flesh – irrespective of age, gender, slave or free. Giving us the real sense that the Holy Spirit is for everyone and can transform anyone, as we reflect on the power of the Holy Spirit moving in our lives. We can be thankful for all that God has worked in us through his Spirit and open our hearts to being as reliant on God as Peter was. It is important to be listening to God’s urging of us through the Spirit and acting and being encouraging on our journey onwards. Being thankful for the work of the spirit in others, who have encouraged us on our journey is also part of it.

From the events on the day of Pentecost, a little further on in Acts it says 3000 people were inspired to believe and be baptised by what happened on the day of Pentecost. How the Spirit worked in everyone and how the Spirit worked through Peter, it must have been amazing to be part of it.  When God works like this it is amazing and in our own way and with the Spirit working in us, we can be amazing too. We have to open to the Spirit’s guidance, reliant on God and then encouraging others.

In our current circumstances being open to the Spirit’s guidance, reliant on God  and encouraging others will also help us with the trials and tribulations of our strange times too.

I am going to end with a time of reflective prayer

Sit very still and become aware of your breathing.
As you breathe in, think of God.
As you breathe out, think of the world.

Repeat this at least three times.

As you breathe in now, give thanks for the peace the Spirit brings.
As you breathe out, pray for peace in the world.
Repeat this at least three times.

As you breathe in, receive from God what he has for you.
As you breathe out, ask what you should do.

Repeat this at least three times.

Keep a few moments of quiet and conclude:
Come, Holy Spirit, come now.


Prayer adapted – copyright ©

New Revised Standard Version Bible: Anglicised Edition, copyright © 1989, 1995 

Easter 7 – Rev Alison Way

Based on Acts 1 6-14 and John 17:1-11

The link to the video for this reflection is

Bishop Peter’s video is found at

In the name of the Living God: Loving Father, Risen Son and ever present Holy Spirit, Amen

 Today in our first reading, we heard the story of how Jesus went back to heaven – the story of the Ascension. Jesus challenged his disciples to spread his message locally and  across the whole world. He promised the power of the Holy Spirit to help them do this and then he was lifted up and taken up into heaven. The disciples then meet 2 angels when they were already pretty dazed who confirmed what had just happened. Finally the disciples went back home to the upper room in Jerusalem.                                                                                                                          What they did next was to pray. It said they were very constant in their prayer at this point. As they were preparing for the Holy Spirit to come to them for the very first time, (which we will hear about next week!). They were joined by the women in Jesus life, which included his mother Mary and Jesus brothers.

In this circumstance, when they were in a very challenging turbulent time, it is too easy for us to lose sight of how this must have felt first time around, because we have the great gift of hindsight. We know the Holy Spirit came and the disciples were empowered to share Jesus message, but that is very different from living with the action as it pans out. Into this turbulence, the disciples and the women and Jesus’ brothers turn to prayer. We can understand why they were devoted and constant in their prayer. It was a good way to pass the time as they came to terms with Jesus leaving them forever, while they watched and waited for what was to come.

Actually from our current circumstances we also know it would be good to be looking back on these times not living them. I think we will need to remember when we get to that point – How these times have really felt. Stay with that, rather than relying on our wisdom after the event!!! Staying in the moment matters right now uncomfortable as it is.

What the disciples did in their turbulent times speaks into what we can do in our turbulent times – They were constant in prayer and it is good for us to spend time praying, devoting ourselves to it. This is partly because it is something we can do, rather than one of the many things we can’t. It is also something that will change things – as prayer to God always does.

Praying in the time between Ascension and Pentecost is now built into the fabric of the church through the ‘thy kingdom come’ initiative, started by our Archbishop’s Justin and John in 2016. Time to be set apart to particularly pray for the coming of the Holy Spirit. To pray in a more evangelistic way – to share the good news with others. Our week day worship materials are from Thy Kingdom Come for 2020 last week and this coming week.

As I have said before prayer is sometimes the only thing we can do, when the going gets tough.  I think this is particularly true in those moments we encounter turbulent times and difficult change,  which often renders us vulnerable and feeling pretty powerless. When something very difficult is happening to ourselves or someone we love. We have no control, we can’t do anything helpful or practical to ease the situation. We just have to live it day by day! Or when powerlessness is engendered by something over which we have no control and is a long way away from us. That very much encapsulates our current covid pandemic circumstances. There seems to be so little we can do practically in this situation, but the one thing we can always do is pray.

And prayers do get answered, not necessarily in the ways we want or imagine, but in God’s way to God’s plan and God’s timing. Prayer for a situation leaving it to God can never hurt or make a situation worse.

When we think about answers to prayers – how long it can take and how it can be different from what we imagine, I was reminded about a prayer vigil I took part in. It was a long time ago in 1988 – Now over 30 years. It took place on a Christian summer camp for young people – I was helping to lead (at Hilfield Friary – which is not that far from here and familiar to some via quiet days).

Over a couple of hours, one warm August evening – 60 young people and the camp leadership team prayed for a number of situations across our world. At the time, it felt like a drop in the ocean compared to the size of the problems we were praying for. Though it was good to pray – I remember feeling it was pretty hopeless, that things would never change, but set against that was that praying was something we could actually do in the face of feeling really powerless at the way our world was.

We prayed for the concerns in our world that the young people aged between 14-21 raised. These were the signs of the times in our minds then in 1988, we prayed around 4 specific areas

  • Firstly – The end of the cold war – nuclear arms race, and in particular for the Berlin Wall to be taken down.

  • Secondly – For the release of Terry Waite and the other hostages.

  • Thirdly – For world peace – around flash points that surrounded Colonel Gadafi and Libya.

  • Fourthly – For an end to any regime where one set of people oppressed another. In particular we prayed for an end to apartheid in South Africa and for the release of Nelson Mandela

I have to say subsequently, that each time the world has moved on in any one of those areas we prayed for and the world has really moved on in all those areas since 1988, I have been reminded of that prayer vigil and those I prayed with. But above all I have been very struck by how God has moved through those prayers and the prayers of countless people across the world to bring change and justice. Where back in 1988 there was no reason to believe that change and justice were likely. All that seemed a really impossible mountain range to climb in 1988 – and yet from the vantage point of 2020 – we are well over the other side of most of that seemingly impossible mountain range and contemplating prayer needs now. These include the current very difficult situation in Zimbabwe and the worldwide impact of Coronavirus

There are lots and lots of different ways to pray. Praying is important whether we are in challenging or turbulent times or day to day life is running smoothly. We pray

  • To share our lives with God

  • To get to know God

  • To express our love and thanks to God

  • To enable us to love people

  • To bring our needs to God.

  • To experience God’s love for us

We could learn a lot from the disciples, Jesus brother’s and the women’s response to pray and to look at our own devotion and constancy in prayer.

Prayer changes things. Last year I had the pleasure of attending an evening with Terry Waite – which was very moving as well as deeply inspiring, and I am going to finish with some words from the story of Terry Waite about prayer and a prayer.                                                                                                           Just to recap his story – Terry Waite was held hostage for a total of 1,763 days – until 18 November, 1991. During that time Archbishop Runcie prayed for him every day. Speaking following Lord Runcie’s death, Mr Waite said he had always been grateful to him for praying for him while he remained in chains. “He was exceptionally kind and supportive to my family during that time, though of course I did not know anything about it until my release,” he said. I repeat – Prayer changes things

End with a prayer

Lord, teach us to pray as you prayed.
Teach us to pray early in the morning and during the night.
Teach us to pray in times of happiness and in times of deepest sadness.
Teach us to pray in desert places and in holy places.
Teach us to pray patiently and persistently.
Teach us to pray humbly and graciously.
Teach us to pray with a childlike spirit, in love and trust.
Teach us to pray ‘Let your will be done’ with courage and faith.
Lord, teach us to pray ‘Thy kingdom come’. For your name’s sake.

Pictures, Ascension picture from St Teilo’s at St Fagan’s – National Museum of History, Hilfield Youth Camp marquee in 2005, Terry Waite at an evening in Southwark Cathedral


Rogation – Easter 6 – Rev Alison Way

Click here to see and hear….

Rogation – Acts 17:22-31 and John 14:15-21

In the name of the Living God: Loving Father, Risen Son and ever present Holy Spirit, Amen

When I was at school I used to sing a hymn that started – Daisies are our silver buttercups are gold, this is all the treasures we can have or hold.

I don’t remember the tune very well, but the concept has been playing in my mind. One of a few good things that has come out of lockdown has been the chance to observe the spring moving rapidly towards summer. In my case also, the wonders of a new garden (and what pops up!). If you are my Facebook friend you will know this includes some seriously glorious roses!

Also I have been undertaking exploring walks in the beautiful local countryside. I have spent some time building a sense of how the land around us is used in farming. Lots of sheep and cows (and an occasional llama!), and pastures.

And due to the spell of dry and sunny weather we have been having – signs of the first cut of the year.

Also evidenced by large agricultural vehicles repeatedly thundering up and down Common Road at the end of last week!!!

On the 6th Sunday after Easter, it is traditional to mark rogation. (Rogation comes from The Latin ‘Rogare’ – to ask). The asking became asking God to bless the land, our farmers and all those who produce the food we eat. This has 2 distinct origins. The first is from the Book of Common Prayer. The gospel set for today in the prayer book, includes the following phrase: “Whatever you ask the Father in my name, he will give to you”.

The second origin of rogationtide is rather more surprising. Another case of us taking something left us by the Romans and using it – another of those what have the Romans done for us answers! Any way in this instance the Roman festival is of ‘Terminalia”, or “boundaries”. By the 17th Century this had been adapted by the church and served a practical purpose. In days before Ordnance Survey maps, sat nav or the “achurchnearyou web site”, there were not always clear lines of demarcation between the parishes, especially where there were open field systems. Instead at rogation they spent time walking the boundaries of the parish. Boundaries marked where it was safe for children of the parish to wander but no further.

Unfortunately for the young men of the parish, during the procession round, traditionally the boys were bumped on prominent marks and boundary stones, hence the phrase beating the bounds…. Bit more literal then! Or worse boys were rolled in briars and ditches, or thrown in the pond to ensure they never forgot the boundaries. The crowd would also be very exact about the boundaries and trample over anything in the way like hedges or houses built on the boundary.

This idea of Roman origin became, thankful to the Victorians, much more civilised by beating objects rather than people, and being less aggressive to hedges or houses built on the boundary! In the context of procession on rogation days the use of litanies was also developed and was common. The intercession for this week’s worship has included chunks each day of the latest rogationtide litany the Church of England has produced.

The purpose of any litany in our Church Is a structured form of prayer, consisting of a number of petitions and reasonably fixed responses for all to join in with. They are designed to have a natural rhythm and enable us to cover the height and width and depth of a subject. The word litany is derived from the greek meaning “supplication”. The church having litanies is an early tradition, originating in the 4th century in Antioch, as a way the early Christians worshipped together. For me there is something very inspiring about connecting with something Christians have been doing over hundreds of years.

The one we have been using during this week, if we have, was written in 2006. In an introduction to all the worship material designed to support the agricultural year it says that ‘the jewish and christian scriptures give eloquent expression to the creative power and wisdom of God’. Our first reading from Acts – has people describing God as the one who made the world and everything in it, and as Lord of heaven and earth.

I think it is a natural instinct for worshipping communities to develop patterns of prayer and worship around the agricultural year, particularly when living in more rural communities set in the midst of agricultural land.

At its most basic we need food for human life, but this should be accompanied by a sense of proper humility before God as the source of all things, gratitude for his goodness and taking responsibility for our stewarding of the resources of the earth. Our current circumstance has been making us think about this on a number of fronts. For example, the panic buying that characterised the weeks leading up to lockdown – Really not our finest hour. On a more positive front – we have been taken back to what is available locally and being more thoughtful about what we consume in every sense. The difference between what we want and what we need has been highlighted. Praying for all aspects of farming and those who produce and market our food is important. Especially things being undertaken now with significant risk involved to keep food in our fridges and on our tables.

The scope of our current rogation litany also includes in the latter stage of it petitions for the world of work. As we begin to take what the government is describing as baby steps towards more people working beyond the confines of their homes, I am very conscious of the difficulties this presents. Finding ways of doing things with social distancing, and without undue risk is going to be both challenging and difficult. The financial forecasts for our economy make very grim reading too, with an expectation of high rates of unemployment and rising levels of debt. It is hard to see how this can only make the road ahead difficult for many. I think it was very timely that we have prayed for the world of work this week as part of rogationtide prayers, and that we should continue to do that. It may very well be that we are very concerned for ourselves, for friends and families with livelihoods in jeopardy.

The litany also calls for the accountable stewardship that God will require of us. That we use our resources well, to the benefit of others showing love for our neighbours both near and far. Prayers for local communities whatever, size shape and density of population they represent again are really important in these uncertain times, and likely to be essential in the weeks and months ahead. Particularly that we pull together rather than just look after number one.

Thinking like this helps us to take stock, to re-assert God as the foundation of our being. In whom we live and breathe and have our being, and from whom all our blessings come.  From whom as Jesus said in our Gospel reading, from whom the Spirit of Truth comes – who abides in us and is with us and gives us the strength we need for the day. Fundamentally, even in these very difficult times we have much to be thankful for.

  • A loving God – who endures as long as the earth endures

  • There is seedtime, and harvest

  • Cold and heat

  • Summer and winter

  • Day and night

Let’s not forget this or get caught up in the delusion of being in control ourselves, but open our hearts to God’s way for us this day and every day. Asking God to pour down upon us the abundance of his mercy. As we remember that everything belongs to God and our need to be good stewards of our good earth. Keep praying, keep connected and stay safe. Amen

I suggest praying with the Rogation litany in full now.

God the Father, Lord of creation, All have mercy upon us.
God the Son, through whom all things were made, All have mercy upon us.
God the Holy Spirit, who renews the face of the earth, All have mercy upon us.
Holy, blessed and glorious Trinity, creating and saving God, All have mercy upon us.
Remember, Lord, your mercy and loving-kindness towards us. Bless this good earth, and make it fruitful. Bless our labour, and give us all things needful for our daily lives. Bless the homes of this parish and all who live within them. Bless our common life and our care for our neighbour. All Hear us, good Lord.

For all cities, towns and villages, and for their well-being and prosperity, let us pray to the Lord. All Lord, have mercy.
For the rural economy and for its regeneration, let us pray to the Lord. All Lord, have mercy.
For those who tend the countryside and preserve its order and beauty, let us pray to the Lord. All: Lord, have mercy.
For traditional rural skills and crafts and for those who exercise them, let us pray to the Lord. All: Lord, have mercy.
For all farms, all who work them, and for the whole farming industry, let us pray to the Lord. All:  Lord, have mercy.
For those who make farming policy, and for all with authority in government, let us pray to the Lord. All: Lord, have mercy.

For a blessing on our land we pray. All: Hear us, good Lord.
For healthy crops and abundant harvests we pray. All: Hear us, good Lord.
For the care and welfare of animals and for the veterinary profession we pray. All: Hear us, good Lord.
For the harvest of the soil and for the fruits of the earth in their seasons we pray. All: Hear us, good Lord.
For seasonable weather we pray. All: Hear us, good Lord.

For protection from blight, pestilence and disease we pray. All: Hear us, good Lord.
For those engaged in agricultural research we pray. All: Hear us, good Lord.
For the service industries that support rural life we pray. All: Hear us, good Lord.
For the ministry of your Church in rural areas we pray. All:Hear us, good Lord.
For parts of the world where the harvests have failed we pray. All: Hear us, good Lord.
For charities, aid agencies and overseas development we pray. All: Hear us, good Lord.

For our daily bread: All: we pray to you, O Lord.
For all who work on the land to bring us our food in due season: All: we pray to you, O Lord.
For all who fish the rivers, lakes and seas: All: we pray to you, O Lord.
For all who process foods and prepare them for distribution and sale: All: we pray to you, O Lord.
For all supermarkets and shops, and for all who work in them: All: we pray to you, O Lord.
For those who work in food research: All: we pray to you, O Lord.
For those who distribute food to those in need: All: we pray to you, O Lord.
For the will to share your bounteous gifts: All: we pray to you, O Lord.

For the world of work in all its diversity: All: hear us, good Lord.
For the industry and workplaces of this parish and community: All: hear us, good Lord.
For the right ordering of work in time of technological change: All: hear us, good Lord.
For communities that have lost traditional industries, and for their regeneration: All: hear us, good Lord.
For all expanding industries and for the promise of new jobs: All: hear us, good Lord.
For small businesses and co-operatives: All: hear us, good Lord.
For local trade and commerce: All: hear us, good Lord.
For all service industries that provide for our daily needs: All: hear us, good Lord.
For the unemployed and for those living in poverty: All: hear us, good Lord.
For school leavers and all who are seeking to enter employment: All: hear us, good Lord.
For the retired and those unable to work: All: hear us, good Lord.
For all who work as volunteers: All: hear us, good Lord.

Almighty and everlasting God, you are always more ready to hear than we to pray and to give more than either we desire or deserve: pour down upon us the abundance of your mercy, forgiving us those things of which our conscience is afraid and giving us those good things which we are not worthy to ask but through the merits and mediation of Jesus Christ your Son our Lord. All: Amen.

 Time of silent or open prayer

Grant favourable weather, temperate rains and fruitful seasons, that there may be food and drink for all creatures. Bestow your blessing upon the lands and waters, and all who work upon them, to bring forth food and all things needful for your people. Prosper all who care for the earth, the water, and the air, that the riches of your  creation may abound from age to age.
All: Hear us, good Lord. Amen

The Lord’s Prayer is said.

All: Our Father in heaven, hallowed be your name, your kingdom come,
your will be done, on earth as in heaven. Give us today our daily bread.
Forgive us our sins as we forgive those who sin against us.
Lead us not into temptation but deliver us from evil. For the kingdom, the power, and the glory are yours now and for ever. Amen.

The Conclusion

All: God be gracious to us and bless us:
and make his face to shine upon us Amen

Copyright acknowledgement Some material included in this service is copyright: ©  The Archbishops’ Council 2000-2020

New Revised Standard Version Bible: Anglicised Edition, copyright © 1989, 1995

VE Day 75 – Easter 5 – Rev Alison Way

Acts 7: 55-end, John 14: 1-14

To see and hear

In the name of God, Loving Father, Risen Son and ever present Holy Spirit.

If you are watching this on youtube, this one starts and ends a little differently – you will see me in due course!!!

So today we are marking the 75th anniversary of VE day. – Victory in Europe. When I arrived in February, one of the first things I did was connect with the British Legion, and plan today to do a special service as part of Wincanton’s marking of this anniversary. Needless to say along with everything else, that has not been possible. Instead a shorter version of some of these thoughts was shared in a video on Friday by the British Legion – and I do hope some of you have seen it!!

Any way – we all have forebears (whether we knew them or not) who experienced VE day. They will have contributed both in conflict and on the home front to VE day coming about.

Here is an old photo of my dad – Geoff Way – he was 18 in 1939 and he had just joined the RAF. In 2005 (less than a year before he died), when I was in the early days of my curacy, I was asked to preach at the Civic Service in Basingstoke for the then 60th anniversary of VE Day. I decided to ask people who could remember what they remembered of ‘their VE Day’ – So the first person I asked was my dad. I think this is probably the only conversation we ever had about his experiences in the second world war – like many my dad just didn’t talk about it.

Anyway on VE day my dad was in Egypt as a navigator in the RAF. He played a game of hockey, and then went on leave to Cairo for a few days. The following pictures that I show as I talk about other memories I heard are from my dad’s photo album and a scruffy envelope with battered and small black and white photos in it. To give you the scale of them – they are on an A4 folder in this shot.

At the time I also asked some others too and they described trips in to London,  festivities, street parties, bell ringing,  fireworks, a Wren gathering and some significant antics in Tubrook (that I won’t repeat here). One of my home communion ladies – one of two Miss Pinks, talked about coming home early from her job and celebrating – but then she told me the story of what she had done on Armistice Day back in 1918 (which involved her as a small child swinging on the garden gate waiting for her dad to come home from work – swinging on the garden gate was not usually a permitted activity by her mother!!)

Back at the VE day stories these were often accompanied with attempts to explain the joy they had felt at peace after so many years of heart breaking conflict.

Interestingly everyone I asked also took the time to describe the difficult times that followed after VE day:

  • Notably how rationing got worse.

  • How the trail of destruction across Europe impacted day to day life.

  • How loved ones returning from the forces made others experience a renewed sense of loss for those who never returned.

  • For others there was coming to terms with imprisonment, injury, and disability for them or family members.

  • The impact of what we would describe as post traumatic stress was apparent too.

  • The lifting of the blackout – quite literally the return of street lights, and lights from houses instead of pitch black and using dim torches to light the way in the dark.

  • And in rural and coastal areas putting the road signs back up after they were removed to help combat any invading force and clearing the beaches of barricades and barbed wire where that had been deployed.

  • Fighting also continued later on into 1945 in the far east.

  • My dad described how there had been a points system for being demobbed and as he had no dependents, he was not demobbed until the end of 1946 staying in Egypt. He did acknowledge that the amount of work he did decreased as time went on and he played more and more hockey and table tennis!

At the time 15 years ago before the 60th anniversary of VE Day –  it was a real privilege to have been able to ask these questions, and listen to the different stories. And now some 15 years on the 75th anniversary there are now many fewer to ask who remember those times and experiences.

Through these conversations I felt I had better understood the celebrations on VE day – Joy at peace, hope for better times, accompanied by respectful remembrance of the cost and day to day life that was grindingly tough.

Remembrance is really important – I think Remembrance is the act of remembering things that have happened to others and have shaped our lives as they are. Respectful and heartfelt remembrance of the sacrifice of so many, of the lives cut short, and the lives changed irrevocably is important.

Jesus said – No one has greater love than this, to lay down one’s life for one’s friends – John 15:17


Those who shared their VE Day memories with me, who had deep Christian faith – spoke also of how that had sustained and guided them through the war years, and that deep spiritual joy was part of what they experienced on the day.

Both our Bible Readings set for this the 5th Sunday of Easter – reflect on faith in adversity. First the faith of Stephen in our Acts reading. At the point of his death by stoning – He is forgiving those who were killing him and recognising Jesus love for him, and being buoyed by a vision of Jesus reaching out to him – ‘the Son of Man standing at the right hand of God’ – Acts 7: 56.

And the beginning of our gospel reading is a hugely familiar passage from John. Jesus is saying to us as he was to his disciples at the last supper – ‘Do not let your hearts be troubled’ John 14:1.
Pause and reflect on those words speaking to our hearts at this time – hearts that can easily be troubled by all the difficulties that currently beset us. Listen to those words again. Jesus is saying to us especially

Do not let your hearts be troubled’ John 14:1.

We do need to hold fast to our faith – which has been very much a theme of all these reflections we have shared on line or via videos during this time of lock down.

But returning to our marking of the 75th anniversary of VE Day, as well as remembering – Giving thanks and living thankfully is also important. As we mark this anniversary giving thanks particularly for those who did so much to give us the foundation of peace we stand on.

I think today – In our strange circumstances, in lockdown with an invisible and deadly ‘enemy’ in Coronavirus, it also helps us to look to our forebears and remember how they prayed and hoped through the long days of the second world war. That adversity can and will pass, and that through God’s love for us we can be given the strength we need for today and walk together with hope in our hearts for better times ahead.

With that in mind over the past weeks our national consciousness has been Inspired by the efforts of this man

Now Colonel Tom Moore – doing what he could, inspired by thankfulness and hope for the future  (picture from the on his 100th birthday).

Colonel Tom’s effort to support the NHS thankfully and hopefully is characterised by his hashtag – tomorrow will be a good day. It has spoken to all of us deeply and profoundly. VE day reminds us once more How hope, joy and peace can come out of the ruins of the most unlikely of circumstances such as adversity, loss, and pain

So let’s remember,

Let’s be thankful

And let’s walk hopefully strengthened in our resolve in our day and inspired by our forebears on this 75th anniversary of VE day. I particularly like how in this photo of my VE day 75 window art – our present is reflected in the glass, showing how remembrance, and the example of thankfulness and hope in our forebears can help us with our troubling present circumstances.

Jesus said ‘Do not let your hearts be troubled’ John 14:1.

I am going to end with a prayer – which we can say together.

A prayer for VE Day – From the Act of Commitment for Peace

Lord God our Father,
we pledge ourselves to serve you and all humankind, in the cause of peace,
for the relief of want and suffering,
and for the praise of your name.
Guide us by your Spirit;
give us wisdom; give us courage;
give us hope;
and keep us faithful now and always. Amen.


The New Revised Standard Version (Anglicized Edition), copyright 1989, 1995

Some material included is copyright: ©  The Archbishops’ Council 2000-2020

Picture of Colonel Tom Moore –


Reflection for Easter 4 – Penny Ashton

Reflection for Easter 4

To see and hear …..

Acts 2: 42-47, John 10: 1-10

(Genesis 7 and Psalm 23)

It is interesting to note that our lectionary gives us a wide choice of readings for each day of the year and even more for Sundays.  The Old Testament reading for today is Genesis 7 – it is a story you know well and is always popular with Tiny Church as it tells of how Noah took his family and all the animals into the ark and 7 days later the flood started.  We have never really understood why in Tiny Church, the giraffe is the most popular of the animals that we have, but there is often competition to hold it regardless of the day’s story!   You may want to read the story again – we often find new things to learn about God by returning to bible passages that we thought we knew well.  The chapter ends with Noah and his family being shut into the ark by God closing the door, and the flood destroying everything that is not on board.  This is now the seventh Sunday that we have been unable to meet in church – or anywhere else for that matter, and I am sure that those of you who are completely shut in must know a little of how Noah felt!  Although it is hard, it is worth remembering that when God shuts us in, it is to keep us safe.

There is a theme of caring in nearly all of the readings for today, because this 4th Sunday of Easter is also known as Vocations Sunday.  We tend to think of a vocation as being something that an ordained minister and maybe a reader has, but the Church of England website describes it like this:

‘Vocation means what you are called by God to be and do. For some, this is a specific calling to ministry. For others, it could mean serving God through faithful discipleship in everyday life. 

Everyone has a vocation. Find yours.

(I put the emphasis on the last 2 words as a challenge!)

The site goes on to say:

… the most unlikely of us can be called to extraordinary ministry.

We believe every Christian has a vocation, not just those called to ministry.’


Linked to vocations though,  today is also known as Good Shepherd Sunday as a reference to both our Gospel reading, and the psalm set for today which is probably one of the best known passages in the bible anywhere in the world – Psalm 23 – again you might want to read it again to remind yourself of God’s unfailing love for you.  As a part of my reader training I was lucky enough to have a day’s teaching from a man who works as part of a team of bible translators, and I remember clearly his telling us just how difficult it is to put the Bible into the language of people who have never seen a sheep and have no concept of keeping and farming livestock or the language that relates to it.  The theme of the shepherd caring for his flock runs right through the Bible – both Old and New Testaments, and it is a picture of Jesus that springs readily to mind for us, even though the shepherds in first century Judea were probably very different from the way we tend to imagine them.

Sheep in Judea in Jesus’ day were kept primarily for wool and not meat.  In this country we farm our sheep for meat and they are shorn to keep them free of parasites and disease and to keep them cool in hot weather.  Most of them don’t live for very long.  Sheep kept for wool though are allowed to live longer, and so the shepherd does get to know each one individually and call it by name.  Each shepherd would have his own way of calling to his sheep – not in words but a series of sounds or a chant that would be instantly recognisable to them.  It needed to be because the shepherd would call to his sheep as he led them from the front to keep them on the path in the dangerous rocky terrain.  As Jesus says, the sheep will run away from anyone who doesn’t have the right voice.

I have always been a bit puzzled by the second picture that Jesus paints of his being the door to the sheep, but I have recently  learned that on warm summer nights, sheep were not returned to the safety of the fold in the village or town but were led into a fold that was out on the hillside and enclosed by a rough wall.  It had no gate, just an opening in the wall for the sheep to get in and out, and when all the sheep were safely inside, the shepherd would lie down and sleep across the opening keeping them safe from any predators that might have been around, and this is what Jesus is referring to here.

The Church that we hear about in the reading from Acts could not be more different from our current situation.  It must also be a challenging description of a church to anyone considering a church leadership vocation. This was the church based in Jerusalem that grew after the coming of the Holy Spirit at Pentecost.  Led the by apostles who were teaching daily in the temple and filled with people who were learning, worshipping and sharing together – and daily more and more people were joining them.  This was a church that came together at every opportunity. – ‘Day by day they spent much time together’ (v46)

I think we are all missing the opportunity to come together – whether in church or in smaller numbers in our homes, but hopefully those times will return in the not too distant future, when it is safe again to do so.  In the meantime I take comfort from something I learned a long time ago from George Carey when he was Bishop of Bath and Wells.  I heard him preach in Yeovil, and have always remembered him saying that there could be no such thing as private prayer.  When we come to God in prayer or worship, whether in church or at home, we should remember the words from our Eucharistic prayer that we use Sunday by Sunday:

Therefore with angels and archangels, and with all the company of heaven, we proclaim your great and glorious name, for ever praising you

 It is worth remembering that if ever we feel that our prayers or worship at this time are weak and ineffectual – just think what a glorious noise is being made in heaven because you have started to pray!

The description we have of this church is only a few verses long, but it mentions twice the breaking of the bread.  Again this is something that we are all missing during the time that we are unable to gather around the Lords table, and so I have added a photo to this that was sent to me by my friend Lisa Large who I am sure many of you remember, who is now living in Leeds.  She sent it as an Easter greeting, and at first the picture puzzled me as it seemed to show the remains of her breakfast – until I realised that she was sharing her Easter communion with me.  We can all learn from Lisa I think, and even though we bless and break our bread and ‘wine’ at our kitchen tables rather than in church, again we are joined by the ‘whole company of heaven’ and by the universal church on earth in obeying  Jesus words when he said ‘Do this in remembrance of me’.

  If you would like to hear a communion service at home and you have access to the internet or to Facebook, there is a eucharist said by either Bishop Peter or Bishop Ruth on the Bath and Wells diocesan website  ( and Facebook page ( ) every Wednesday morning at 10.30am.  If like me you are not very good at finding the right part of the internet at the right time, you will find words to help your own personal eucharist at home in I Corinthians 11: 23-26 which forms part of our Eucharistic Prayer every Sunday.

However you chose to meet with God over the coming week, do remember that nobody ever prays alone, and no prayer ever goes unheard.

Let us pray together:

Loving heavenly Father, we pray today for all those who are considering whether you are calling them to ministry, and that you will show us all how best we can serve you and your kingdom.

Jesus, our good shepherd, we bring to you all those whom we love but are unable to be with at this time.  We ask you to keep them safe from fear, loneliness and ill health of body or mind.

Powerful Spirit we pray for the church throughout our land and the world that it will continue to shine your light in dark places and bring your joy and truth wherever you lead.

Father, Son and Holy Spirit we ask for the constant comfort of knowing your loving presence in our lives now and always.  Amen.

May the love of the Father, the tenderness of the Son, and the presence of the Spirit gladden our hearts and bring peace to our souls this day and all days.  Amen