Monthly Archives: September 2022

Harvest 2022

Deuteronomy 26:1-11 and John 6:25-35

In the name of the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit, Amen.

Part of this and any harvest festival marks the gathering in the harvest from the fields around us in whatever form that may take, and being thankful for those who work on the land, and those who in many different ways provide our daily bread or sustenance. Harvest thankfulness is a good proper wholesome thing to do. No harvest festival would be complete without the singing of the most traditional rousing harvest hymn – We plough the fields and scatter. And indeed this service ends with it…

I want to tell you a bit about that hymn and who brought it to us (and in what circumstances). Anyway, We plough the fields was written in 1782 in Germany and in German by a man named Mathias Claudius. He began life training to be a priest, but gave it up. He then decided to change to a study of law and languages. He became a newspaper editor, and then an auditor and he gave up on his faith for a while. But when stricken with a serious illness at the age of 39, Mathias reached out to God and returned to his Christian faith, committing his life to Christ. His humble reliance on God from then on is reflected in his many volumes of poetry and prose. Of which We plough the fields is just one example

In its own way – This hymn is an example of this man’s harvest in 1782. Though he appears never to have worked the land directly himself. This hymn we love came about because in 1782, Mathias wrote a sketch picturing the harvest festival on a typical farm in northern Germany. As part of the sketch, the people gathered round and sang the German version of the hymn entitled the Peasant’s Song

We also sing this hymn today due to the work and therefore the harvest in 1861, of the skilled hymn translator called Jane Campbell. She was the daughter of the Rector of St James’ Church in London (Piccadilly). She lived most of her adult life as a spinster in Bovey Tracy in Devon. The hymn translation of We plough the fields she did was first published in 1861, and could readily be described as her harvest for 1861.

Now as you can see – I am talking in terms of harvest and what might represent harvest for these people from history, whose work of their hands and whose harvest has come to be so special to us. Our first Bible reading from Deuteronomy advises us to put the first fruits of our harvest into a basket, and bring it to the priest to set before God. This is really all about encouraging our thankfulness habit to God.

I am hoping that at least some of us have brought something that symbolizes harvest for you in 2022 with a spirit of thankfulness. As I wrote – the more imaginative and linked to your life or experiences of this year the better! 2022 – like all the years of the twenty twenties so far has not been without significant challenges.

I am going to come round the church – so we can see what you have brought – but don’t worry if you haven’t brought anything. If you wish you can tell us what you might have brought or would have brought and why that’s fine too? My suspicion is that some of these things will surprise and not be something we thought we might be thankful for, but let’s be thankful all the more.

After all for Mathias Claudius and Jane Campbell would probably not be expecting us in 2022 to still be being thankful for their harvest from 1782 and 1861 respectively, and we shall see what we’ve got or what people think of on this side of the church and then the other. What have you got – or would have brought to symbolise harvest for 2022 and why?

Pause and do the responsory now on page 6 of the order of service.

Excellent all kinds of different things from 2022, for me I know I showed several things it could be a few weeks ago in church, but also things have radically changed since then..

My item for thankfulness is that I got to participate and pray at a very historic event – At the proclamation of our new monarch in Wincanton town hall. Something I never imagined I would ever do, but I am thankful. I was able to give thanks for the long reign of her late Majesty Queen Elizabeth II in the town hall on that historic occasion and several other occasions in this church and in Wincanton church too.

As well as praying in thankfulness I have been praying for the time ahead under the reign of His Majesty King Charles III. The phrase in the prayer for him includes – Help us to work together so that truth and justice, harmony and fairness flourish among us. That is something that we really need in these difficult times, with the financial crisis, concerns for our food supply as a world, and our need for peace. Let’s keep praying for them. Help us to work together so that truth and justice, harmony and fairness flourish among us.

To finish, our next hymn speaks into all this with resonant words and a stirring tune. It has a nod to our marking St Michael’s day with harvest– with the fourth verse reminding us, that angels help us to adore God and worship. It is also a hymn we know to be one of the late Queen’s favourites. It being No 422 Praise my soul the King of heaven. But I think the words of the third verse sum up our need for thankfulness and dependence on God at this time. I would like us to say the third verse together before we sing it to conclude these thoughts

Please turn to hymn 422 – And the third verse

Father-like, he tends and spares us;
well our feeble frame he knows;
in his hands he gently bears us,
rescues us from all our foes.
Praise him! Praise him!
Widely as his mercy flows.




All songs reproduced under CCL license numbers: 1618191 and 217043, Some material included in this sermon is copyright:  ©  The Archbishops’ Council 2000-2022, Photo from Wincanton Town Council Facebook.

Reflections in a time of mourning – 18th September

Reflections during a time of mourning – Penny Ashton

One of the privileges of being a reader, is that you are at times called upon to sit and pray with people who are near to death.  Until I was first asked to do this, I was not aware of quite how powerful this comparatively simple act can be, and how much appreciated by friends and families – even if they are not able to be present, and do not profess any faith.  It has also been my privilege to be with families and endeavour to help them put together a funeral service that says what they want to have said after the loss of a much-loved relative.

The readings that we have heard today are frequently used in the funeral service, and are wonderful words to read of comfort for the living, and as a testament to the fact that the last enemy – death – has been overcome by Jesus on the cross.  I hope it is as much a comfort to others as it is to me, that Her late Majesty Queen Elizabeth II was a person of deep faith since her childhood, and that death will have held no fears for her.  We have that assurance that although the person who was queen for most of our lives – in some cases for all of our lives has died, our God is still in control.

If you have been watching any television at all during the last week, you will have become aware that anyone who ever met the queen, has been called upon to tell in detail their impression of her, and I can’t help feeling that there is not a lot left for me to say – especially as I was not one of the over 30% of the population who had met her!  Instead of trying to add to what they have said, I thought it might be interesting to look at some of the themes that so many have repeated about her character traits that made her so loved and admired by all who met her.

The first word that comes to mind is duty.  Queen Elizabeth saw clearly from a young age that her life was to be one of duty and service.  She pledged herself to our service on her 21st birthday – as she put it recently – ‘in my salad days, when I was green in judgement’ and she has not deviated from that course for over 70 years.  There must have been times in those many years when she would have far rather worn her comfortable clothes and spent a day with her family or her pets, or perhaps watching her horses race on television than touring a factory to be shown the intricacies of manufacture, to remember the facts given in briefing, to ask intelligent questions at the right time, and to remember the names of all the people she was introduced to.  Or to stand for long periods of time watching folk ceremonies enacted for her benefit in varying climates.  I don’t remember if she ever wore a wristwatch, my memory is that she did not, and I wonder if that would be because even to glance at it, or to let her expression of polite interest slip for a moment would have sent the wrong message to anyone who could see her – and the cameras were never off her.  She made herself available to all her prime ministers weekly when possible, and many of them have said how valuable her counsel – given from her accumulated wisdom, and without entering the field of political discussion – had been to them.  Her duty for many years took her on tours away from her growing family, and there is a very poignant picture of her returning from a long tour and being greeted at the station by her two eldest children – then pre-school age, and of Prince Charles not really recognising her.  If it hurt – and I am sure it did, she didn’t show it.  And always to return to the red boxes of ministerial papers awaiting her approval.

The second word we could consider is discretion.  More than one prime minister has said that the only time when they could speak completely freely about their concerns and know that it would go no further was when they spoke to her.  The family’s unofficial motto, adopted by her mother from a saying of Benjamin Disraeli of ‘never complain, never explain’ may have at times been infuriating for some of us who would have liked to know her point of view, but on the whole it has served her well, and she has not deviated from it.. You could perhaps add to it ‘least said, soonest mended’ and it demonstrates her intention of taking the long view in all situations.

The last word we will look at is faithful.  Her majesty never made any secret of her faith in God, and whenever possible has attended Sunday church services and we are told that she prayed daily.  She said in 2002 ‘I know just how much I rely on my faith to guide me through the good times and the bad.  Each day is a new beginning. I know that the only way to live my life is to try to do what is right, to take the long view, to give of my best in all that the day brings, and to put my trust in God’.  She spoke freely of her faith in every Christmas broadcast, but I only learned recently that the poem used by her father in his speech in 1939, and later quoted again by her – ‘I said to the man who stood at the gate of the year..’ had been given to King George by the then 13 year old Elizabeth as she thought he might find it useful.  Queen Elizabeth was not only faithful to God though.  The personal interest that she takes in all branches of the armed forces has been clear in all her dealings with them, as recently as last June, during the Platinum Jubilee celebrations, she made a careful inspection of the guard, and this has won her the undying affection and loyalty of those who serve.  Although her reign has seen the disintegration of the empire, she has overseen the founding of the Commonwealth of Nations which she saw as a family, with all the strengths, faults and differences that a family goes through, and she has remained faithful too to that family, visiting almost every member nation within it at least once.

Something that has only become clear in the last week, however, is that she was not just good at her job.  We all know that at some stage we will have to pass on our baton to the next generation, and from what I have seen of our new King, she was also a good teacher.  I hope I am not the only one who has been impressed by the way he has almost seamlessly dropped into the role that was hers.  Although this is a time when he too needs to grieve the loss of a much loved mother, he has put this to one side and has met with officials, politicians and dignitaries in each of the four nations, has listened to long and multiple tributes to his mother in four parliamentary meetings, has walked in long slow processions behind her coffin, and has met, shaken hands with and smiled at crowds wherever he has gone. On Wednesday of this week he returned to Highgrove his home, but his day ‘off’ was to be spent telephoning those heads of state he had not yet spoken to, and dealing with any government business that has come his way.  I think he has made an amazing start.  We can see I think that we owe a debt of gratitude to her late majesty, and I think that her wish now would be that we give all our support to her son.  He has stated his intention and wish to reign as she did – our job is to support him with our prayers.

The Servant Queen and the King she serves – Copyright – Bible Society, Hope, LICC  2016

Reflections following the death of Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II

Commemoration Service – Her Majesty the Queen – 11th September 2022

Queen Elizabeth II during a visit to the Royal Dockyard Chapel in Pembroke Dock, Wales.

Revelation 21:1-7

In the name of God, Father, Son and Holy Spirit.

It doesn’t really need saying that there has been a seismic change in our country this week and in our very foundations. Remembering and casting our minds back; firstly we installed the long expected new prime minister on Monday and Tuesday. This was then rapidly followed by the deeply unanticipated death of our cherished and beloved late Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II on Thursday, with the proclamation of accession to the throne for His Majesty King Charles III only yesterday.

It has been hard to take in, for many both destabilising and upsetting as grief for what has past grasps us. In the early hours of Friday morning, I even woke up hoping it wasn’t true and it all had been a dream, but it is true.

For Elizabeth, our late Queen, I am confident of her eternal rest in the loving arms of God  after a life lived and nourished by Christian devotion and prayer. And also that in a new way she is reuniting with those who have gone before her, her beloved Prince Philip, Duke of Edinburgh, her parents and her sister.

The reading recommended for this Service of Commemoration speaks of that heavenly destination. It is part of the Revelation of John and we are in both visionary and apocalyptic speak (the latter being something we don’t tend towards today but was much more common in the times of Jesus). These words are trying to convey something of the deep truths of God’s love for us. However, it doesn’t help us that the message is also deliberately hidden within it, in case the words were to get into the hands of the persecuting authorities in the times it was written.

Into these words from Revelation, we feel the sense of God being with us, God’s people – the home of God is among mortals – it says. This is the sense of God we have with us through the Holy Spirit in this life. The Holy Spirit unleased by Jesus’ death, resurrection and ascension that changes things once and for all and forever. We also know that in this world, we see these things of God in a glass darkly, but one day as it says in 1 Corinthians 13, we will see God face to face. I have always interpreted that one day as when we die and pass into God’s eternal presence and rest for ourselves. I also think that in the Revelation reading the phrase when the first things pass away – where death will be no more, with no more mourning, crying and pain is key. I have long understood this too to mean that journey into God’s eternal presence as well.

It is a comfort to know that our beloved Queen has made that transition from this world to the next, and is restored, and renewed in the loving heart of God. Difficult as these matters are to put into words for us and for the writer of Revelation!

And yet, we need to recognise this huge change and hold the future for our country in our hearts and prayers at what was already a very difficult time. We need to pray for our new monarch as well as grieve for what is now passed and gone.  That grief will be buoyed however by a spirit of heartfelt thankfulness for the devoted service to our country and the commonwealth of nations made by our late Queen Elizabeth.

We may remember before the jubilee, I asked lots of individuals from both of the communities I serve as priest, what they most admire about Elizabeth our Queen. In Pen Selwood I did this at the Beacon lighting ceremony and in Wincanton at various events and one of our community coffee mornings. The list of things said ran to several pages for both communities. with common themes emerging about loyalty, service, fortitude, resilience, devotion, duty, strength of character and resolve, steadfastness and so forth. We need to be thankful for all of that and so much more!

Back in June on the Sunday of the Jubilee weekend, I watched the Platinum Jubilee pageant. It was a wildly colourful array of different images from the decades of the Queen’s reign and aspects of celebration from across the country and cultures in the United Kingdom. The scifi geek part of me, loved the bit with the daleks going up the mall, and one of the Dames in Jaguar cars broke down and the smart jaguar having to be pushed. I also like the contribution of the West Country carnival tradition via the Bridgewater carnival float, which took in various carnival teams from Somerset I gather!

At the end of all the diverse and glorious spectacle, it was comforting and reassuring to see her Majesty on the balcony once again, this time in that brilliant emerald green outfit. Yet, at the time, there was also something deeply poignant about it. I had a strange sense that these times were passing, which I couldn’t really put my finger on at the time and I told one of my friends about how I was feeling. I was and am so glad as a country we had been able to show our Queen our profound appreciation for her unprecedented 70 years on the throne.

On social media, shortly after the Platinum jubilee, a drawing of the Queen walking into the horizon appeared, holding the paw of Paddington bear in one hand and her handbag over the other arm, and a corgi sauntering behind. It is a drawing by Eleanor Tomlinson. It kind of spoke into the way I had been feeling.

When I visited that friend I had spoken to, she gave me a genuine print of the drawing as a result in August. Here it is. I know this has been circulating since the Queen’s death too along with some other variants and words. In its own way it is another representation, like our passage in Revelation, of the Queen leaving this realm and the public domain, pointing to the big transition we are currently experiencing – and the Queen’s final eternal journey using William Penn’s words – beyond the horizon of our sight.

As we bid our final farewells to our much loved monarch through this time of mourning and the funeral to come, let’s do it with grateful thankful hearts for all that has been and her long, long reign over us.  As we do this we must also contemplate what can we learn from our Queen and particularly about her deep faith in God, and I am going to re-use a little bit here of what I said on Friday evening.

We have learnt a huge amount through Queen Elizabeth’s life and now her death. We have seen a shining example of a Christ centred way to live. A way based on the fruit of the Holy Spirit’s work in her heart and life. The way of love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, generosity, faithfulness, gentleness and self control. The way (in Church of England speak) of seeking the common good and treating everyone graciously, and with dignity and respect.

We have a lot we can continue to learn from our late Queen in how she lived her life. In her death, as I said earlier we have the reassurance of her eternal rest in the heart of our loving God in heaven. Gathering in this good and faithful servant of God’s and our country. Queen Elizabeth knew the way, and the truth and the life that Jesus spoke of. She knew it through God’s overflowing love for her and that is overflowing love we know too.

Let us give thanks for all that has been as we mark the end of the era of Elizabeth II and also pray for our new King – His Majesty King Charles III at the dawning days of his reign. The focus of this service is very much and rightly on our late beloved Queen, but I do want to conclude these thoughts, with two future looking prayers for the times to come: a prayer for our new monarch and a more traditional prayer by William Penn. Let us pray

Everlasting God, we pray for our new King. Bless his reign and the life of our nation. Help us to work together so that truth and justice, harmony and fairness flourish among us; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.

Life is eternal and love is immortal and death is only an horizon and an horizon is only the limit of our sight. Lift us strong Son of God, that we may see further. Amen


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

Some material included in this service is copyright: ©  The Archbishops’ Council 2000-2022, Picture from the Press Association,

Trinity 12 – September 4th – Rev Alison Way

Trinity 12 – September 4th 2022 – Rev Alison Way

Deuteronomy 30:15-20, Luke 14:25-33

In the name of the Living God, loving Father, risen Son and ever present Holy Spirit. Amen

Back in the 1980’s in the video of the pop song – Wake me up before you go-go!, the members of the pop group Wham wore t-shirts emblazoned with the words Choose life. These t-shirts were designed by the clothes designer Katharine Hammett and even now nearly 40 years on, they are still available.

It is a simple statement that – choose life – but behind its very simplicity are also lots of complications. Lots of things can appear to be attractive in how to choose life today, but not all of them can actually help us to have the abundant life God wants for us. Lots of things can appear to be attractive in choosing life but aren’t like:-

  • Material things

  • All-encompassing relationships

  • The many and varied things we get addicted to today

  • Making choices that impact our global neighbours without a second thought!

For want of casting aspersions, from the original wearers of the choose life t-shirts, we know the downside of the non-life giving side of some of these kind of things and others! We also know the dilemma choosing life is certainly well beyond the scope of choosing a t-shirt

So in choosing life what should we do is what will bring us life and life in all its fullness today, and is in line with God’s love for us and careful gentle stewardship of the resources we have. Both of today’s readings suggest in different ways how to tackle making life giving choices and both today’s readings are warnings at significant times! Let’s look at them in turn starting with that bit of Deuteronomy.

In it, Moses is setting a significant choice before the Israelites. In their story – we are at the point of the Israelites having bigger and better things and times on the verge of the promised land after 40 years in the wilderness. We have to remember that we are hearing this not just from the mouth of Moses however! Any account in the book of Deuteronomy is a much later version of the story of Moses than when these events first occurred. It is one that was written to make sense of other things that happened to the Israelites later in their story. Deuteronomy was written to help explain why the difficult things – like the destruction of the temple, the loss of the promised land and the exile happened, and to help the Israelites make sense of that too. If you like this is a writing on the wall passage – shock tactics, reminding the Israelites of the importance of choosing God day by day and not going their own way. Choosing the way of adhering to God’s laws for them and a way of explaining why when they didn’t manage to choose God’s way and keep God’s laws. Then things went pear shaped in the form of the destruction of the temple, loss of the promised land and exile in Babylon.

Moving on to the even trickier gospel – Jesus is saying these words as he journeys towards Jerusalem and as he faces a very difficult time ahead. Jesus is trying to help his disciples and the crowd travelling with him at this point to face up to the difficult times that are ahead of him and are potentially ahead of them if they take their discipleship seriously. In these words from Jesus, he tackles some of the things that can get in the way of our discipleship and some of them will come as no surprise. Like setting too much store by our material possessions – which is where it ends, but more surprisingly at the beginning other potential limiters such as our families and even our own lives.

Remember when Jesus is saying these things on the way to his cross at Jerusalem. He is knowingly facing a horrendous prospect of letting go of everything. And if nothing else today – this jarring speech remind us of the length he was willing to go for us all. Giving up on his material possessions, family, his friends deserting him and his own life in his quest to save us. This is also evident in those familiar but deeply challenging words – whoever does not carry the cross and follow me cannot be my disciple.

This is without doubt a wake up call of Jesus to shake off complacency and being too comfortable with ourselves. Though we tend to view family and self as positives and adhere strongly to Christian family values, we can also probably recognise circumstances when family stuff has held us back or others that we know back. Or where self-obsession (or what’s in it for me) has got in the way of creative and Christlike discipleship

We understand what Jesus means with the gift of hindsight, but it must have been tricky for the crowd of his day – who did not know the cross was ahead for Jesus. We know the choice to be Christian can be costly and for Jesus it cost everything, for the love we now experience in the power of the Holy Spirit.

In between these very challenging words of Jesus are the 2 one liner parables – The one about building a tower and the other about waging a war. Both of these seem to be about being more planned and organised and rigorous in our journey of discipleship, and being sure we understand what we are embarking on before we set out.

We would think someone exceedingly foolish to start to build a tower and then not be able to finish it because they did not have enough materials. At the moment we are on the way to raising the funding for our roof appeal thanks to Roger and Richard – We clearly can’t start until we know we can pay for it!

The second one line parable is no more comfortable about not waging wars unless you are likely to win. This is even more jarring in the light of current world events. We have been praying for peace in Ukraine for six months now! The backdrop of the reasons for this conflict are so challenging and the difficulty of anyone ‘winning’ or likely to be winning in this war and others makes all this very stark! The war is in part contributing to the many other difficulties we are facing in terms of the cost of living crisis too.

What is the point of the shock tactics of Jesus here and that is surely what they are in modern media parlance. Don’t be naïve about the journey ahead. Discipleship is not always going to be the easy choice or an easy journey. But it is definitely the way to choose life and hope for now and forever. What does it mean to choose life? it means to choose God and all that God has for us and to live the abundant life he has for us, but not to be surprised when difficult times come along as well as good ones. As is the circumstances at the moment and also to make sure when we are choosing life, we think beyond ourselves to our neighbours across the world in our stewardship of the beautiful world God made for us. Amen

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