Monthly message from Rev David Burrell

Dear Friends, November 2017

Joseph Williamson was born in Liverpool in 1769 he was a rich man and supported the poor and provided work for the unemployed. He caused long tunnels and chambers to be quarried out of the stone beneath the city. He even lived partly underground himself.

Williamson once invited some Liverpool gentry to dine with him in one of his excavated chambers. To the dismay of the guests, the chamber was bare rock, the only furnishings a trestle table and chairs, and the meal simple porridge and ship's biscuits. Some guests showed their disgust by leav-ing immediately and were seen out by a courteous footman. When it was obvious no other guest was going to leave a signal was given and for those who remained, a curtain was pulled back and a fur-ther chamber was revealed, richly decorated and containing a lavish banquet.

In Jesus day many people came out to see him and hear him preach. Many expected to find a great leader dressed as a prince and travelling in the finest style. Some were gravely disappointed and fell away returning to their homes believing this Jesus to have been another flash in the pan and without substance.

Those disciples could not have been blamed if they had decided to leave Jesus, as some of William-son's guests had done. In fact, it is fairly certain that many did. One can imagine them being quite excited at first, thinking that God's blessing meant that Jesus was going to give them gold and food. How disappointed some of them must have been when he didn't turn stones into bread - neither did he overthrow the Roman occupation and give everyone a tax rebate.

Many people live lives that are full of disappointment, for some it may be because they feel they have not made a difference. Many want to see tangible results from their faith, perhaps a church grown from nothing to a thriving multi faceted community. Or they think they should make many people turn to Christ simply by listening to the words they preach. Many feel the need of a sign that will affirm their discipleship and let them know God is pleased with them, that they are God's right arm on earth.

It is not surprising we are obsessed by celebrity today you only need to listen to the contestants of X factor to hear how for them celebrity is all and how life ends when they are rejected. Some at the great age of 16 are devastated at not making it. Something they may have wanted all their short life. However being a follower of Christ does not mean we will be celebrated or feted by kings and gover-nors. Our lives could be bleak and filled with anguish or even, God forbid ordinary. Jesus promises nothing for this life but he promises everything for the life to come.

We are told to keep the faith to believe and we shall be rewarded just as those guests of Joseph Williamson supper were rewarded. David

 

October 2017

In the Celtic Christian tradition, we have a prayer for the start of each day which goes;
“Lord, help us to see you in all we meet today; Lord, help us to be you in all we meet today”. This can at times be challenging. The essential elements of both aspects, seeing God and being God, meet in one simple function and that is listening. God always listens though we can be forgiven for sometimes thinking that our words are not heard, so to be God to others, we must first listen. Similarly, if God is to speak to us through someone else, then similarly, firstly we must listen.
Simple? Not really, listening can take a great deal of effort and sacrifice. How often do you find yourself listening with your eyes, but you are planning what you are going to say next, and not really taking in what is being said? I often catch myself doing this. What is happening when we do this, is we are saying ‘I have no interest in what you are saying, but what I am planning on saying is much more interesting'. When Lynne and I trained as bereavement visitors, we were given a copy of this symbol:
It is the Japanese word for ‘listen’. As with many Japanese words it is made up of others; in this case, its constituent parts are: undivided attention, eyes, ears and heart. That is, we should give our undivided attention and use our eyes, our ears and our heart. Our tutor wrote underneath the symbol: there is no mouth. Simply, listening does not need a mouth. Another piece of Western philosophy goes: we have two eyes, two ears, and one mouth, and we should use them in that ratio.
Sometimes people say to me that they don’t know how to deal with someone who is bereaved. The best thing to do is just listen. Listening is the most important aspect of our relationship with others; when you are listening, you are showing that you value the other person and taking an interest in them. Just as God does. With my prayers and best wishes, Ron

July 2017

One of my favourite hymns is Dear Lord and Father of mankind. Strangely, it was written by a man who deplored singing in church. John Greenleaf Whittier (1807-92) was a Quaker who firmly believed that God was best worshipped in silent meditation. However, he allowed the verses to be used in a hymn book in 1884, to which none other than Hubert Parry’s music was later set.

The verse which I think encapsulates Whittier’s sentiment is the fifth one:

 

Drop Thy still dews of quietness,

Till all our strivings cease;

Take from our souls the strain and stress,

And let our ordered lives confess

The beauty of thy peace

This verse is most appropriate for modern living, where our lives are governed and dictated by the ever-moving, never sleeping world in which we live, even though it was written in the mid nineteenth century.

This always seems to come to the fore in the summer when holidays, gardens and the outdoor life place additional demands on us. As much as we should try to enjoy all that the better weather and holidays offer, think about trying to ensure that there is a regular moment where you are free from others, entertainment and demands, so that you can be still and at peace with God. This also can be a time for you to reflect on who you are and for a while at least stop being what others want you to be. This may lead to you experiencing what the last line of verse 5 is about – the beauty of God’s peace. Jesus often took himself off from the disciples and his followers to be with God and many of those in ministry try to go on a quiet retreat as often as they can for the same reason. Have a happy, peaceful, restful and joyful Summer. With my prayers and best wishes,

Ron

May 2017

On the 8th May, we celebrate the feast of Julian of Norwich. Julian was an anchoress, that is, someone who had withdrawn from the sinful world and lived in a cell; this action probably quarantined her from the plague and so saved her life. During her 74 years, she wrote a great deal, particularly about sin, a subject which has caused many great debates. One of the questions I am often asked is what is sin? A very good ques-tion, to which many have offered answers.

One of the less attractive traits of human beings is the way we load expectations on to people that are unrealistic and unfair.  Then, when the expectations are not met, we criticise the others, not ourselves.

Jesus was well aware of what people wanted him to be and do.  He knew he could not be the conquering liberator of their imagination because his path was to lead to defeat and death – something very hard for his followers to accept.  St Luke tells us that even when Jesus hung on the cross ‘the leaders scoffed at him, saying “He saved others; let him save himself if he is the Messiah of God, his chosen one!”  The soldiers also mocked him, coming up and offering him sour wine, and saying, “If you are the King of the Jews, save yourself!”’  (Luke 23:35-37.)  These must have been bitter words for the Son of God to hear, when he knew that he could have summoned legions of angels to release him from the cross, but chose not to.

In that choice he in fact exceeded all expectation.  Instead of liberating the nation he sacrificed himself so that every man, woman and child in the world could come back to God.  That’s how much he loved us.

Sometimes if we let our relatives, friends, the local school, the NHS or whoever it may be off the hook and not pile a weight of expectation upon them, they may in fact deliver in a way that we had never thought of.  No-one on that first Good Friday believed that Jesus would rise again, although he had told them he would.  On Easter Day he turned defeat into victory and silenced the mockery of his enemies by a far greater miracle than stepping down from the cross would have been.  However, he still didn’t do what we might have expected, namely to appear to the Jewish leaders and Roman soldiers.  Instead he appeared secretly to his friends, that not very wonderful bunch of disciples.  Gradually the message that he was alive again spread and spread, so that now all round the world people can rejoice in God’s great work in saving lost humanity.  He has done far more than we could ask, or think, or deserve.  It’s a secret that we can all share in one of our churches this Holy Week and Easter as we proclaim ‘Christ has died; Christ is risen; Christ will come again!’

 David

Dear Friends, March 2017
Aside from being St David’s day, the first of this month, Ash Wednesday, starts the season of Lent which leads up to Ester. As I am sure you already know, Lent is the 40-day period of abstinence and reflection, marking the 40 days of fasting and temptation of Jesus in the wilderness. This is an aspect of Jesus that is wonderfully human, that he had to face many temptations and keep himself pure before taking up the task of saving us from ourselves. Whether you believe that temptation comes from the devil, or from within ourselves, it is a fact of life that we face every day and it is an unavoidable part of our human vulnerability. Unfortunately, we live in a world which all too often seeks to exploit that vulnerability for its own ends, or as St Peter put it: Your enemy the devil, like a roaring lion, is on the prowl looking for someone to devour! (1 Peter 5:8) Lent finishes on the day before Easter Sunday, and this often results in somebody pointing out to me that 40 days from Ash Wednesday doesn’t go all the way to Easter eve – and they are right! It’s because we traditionally do not include Sundays as a fasting day.
In recent years, the idea of ‘giving up something for Lent’ has been extended to tak-ing up something charitable instead – opportunities abound, there are no end of people and charities who could use your help and it doesn’t need to finish at Easter, as Jesus once said, you will always have the poor with you.
Another important day this month is Mothering Sunday i.e. March 26th so please check your church’s notice board for special services, along with other events your church may be running to mark Lent and/or to support various charities.
Finally, David is running a Lent course on the 9th, 16th, 23rd and 30th March at 2pm in the Rectory. If you can, please do some along – I promise that there will be no ‘deep theology’.
With my prayers and best wishes,
Ron

January 2017

Happy New Year!
I can imagine that many of us will be wondering what 2017 will bring. Some will be viewing the coming year with anticipation, some with apprehension and perhaps some even with fear. A new year invariably heralds change of some sort; as somebody once said to me, nothing stays the same forever, in this world, change is inevitable.
The question arises: should we regard all change as inevitable? Indeed, perhaps we should be involved, support or even instigate some changes, after all, we don’t live in a perfect world and some changes would be for the better. I am reminded of a wellknown prayer:
God, grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change;
The courage to change the things I can;
And the wisdom to know the difference.


Jesus Christ certainly bought about quite a few changes and his ministry goes on changing the world for the better. Even so, the future can be unsettling for us all, but of course something that we can cling to is the timelessness of God, and that he will be the same tomorrow as He is today and was yesterday. St Paul makes this point in 2 Corinthians 4:16-18: even though our outer nature is wasting away, our inner nature is
being renewed day by day. No matter what happens to us in the world in which we live, that part of us which lives in Christ, remains the same and is as timeless and unchanging as God. Jesus Christ is the same yesterday and today and forever (Hebrews 13:8).


If all seems bewildering and chaotic, remember that wonderful old hymn by Arthur Ainger: God is working His purpose out. There is purpose to the world in which we live, though it is sometimes hard to see and understand.
With my prayers and best wishes,
Ron

October

We hear so much about human rights these days and everyone is keen to claim what are their perceived rights. In some cases, this means that those with the loudest voice get their needs sorted out before those who are weaker and perhaps in greater need. A few years ago on the ‘Any Question’ programme on Radio 4 somebody asked the question, ‘do animals have rights?’ The first person to answer this question said that asking about rights is looking at the question from the wrong end and what we should be asking is what are our responsibilities towards animals?


This set me thinking perhaps as well as having a bill of ‘Human Rights’ there should be a bill of human responsibilities. Jesus was asked about this in the form of a lawyer’s question ‘who is my neighbour?’
Jesus said we all have a responsibility to make sure that our neighbour, (our fellow human beings), have all that they need. Jesus told the story of the Good Samaritan. A man had been attacked by thieves and left for dead in the side of the road, in the story the man had no right to be rescued but those who passed by had a responsibility to care for him. Two pass-ers-by who it could be argued had the greatest responsibility to act, fail to help. The third passer-by, who was at enmity with the fallen man undertook his human responsibility and did help the man. It is he who is the true neighbour of the injured man.


Such a bill could in no way be one of equality because it would recognise that those who have the most would also have the greater responsibility towards others.
The whole ethos of such a bill would change our attitude from being aggrieved because we are not getting what we feel we need to one of making sure we fulfil our responsibilities to the needs of others.
As the poet, preacher and priest John Donne says, ‘Keep us, Lord, so awake in the duties of our callings that we may sleep in thy peace and wake in glory.

David

August 2016

What does WLTM mean? Well if you have ever perused the lonely hearts columns in the paper you would know it means: Someone Would Like To Meet another person with particu-lar characteristics. Imagine if it were not a human being you WLTM but God. You would probably meet in the place built in his honour, the church in each of our villages. I wonder what would your requirements be? Many lonely hearts lay down hopelessly idealistically (and rather unreasonable) conditions such as young slim and attractive’. So trying not to be un-reasonable what are your requirements where God is concerned?


Here are some possibilities:
‘I only want God to be there when I need him.’
‘Church must be exactly the same as when I was a child.’
‘Fun times only, not difficult/boring/challenging bits.’
‘If the Church was like it is at Christmas, something to bring the kids to, I’d maybe give it a try’.


But just suppose God has been saying to us all our lives that he WLTM us. Not just those of us who go to church regularly, but everyone. He does lay down one simple condition, that we come as we are, without excuses, without dictating terms, without thinking that Jesus is just someone like Father Christmas for small children to know about and then grow out of. God wants to share his love with us as we are, he does not expect us to be saints. Would our defences then come down as we realized his love for us is genuine and caring, far more than the human ideal advertised for?


Church services may not always press the right buttons, but no-one is saying that they or we are perfect. The Old Prayer Book encourages us ‘to render thanks for the great benefits that we have received at his hands, to set forth his most worthy praise, to hear his most holy Word and to ask those things which are requisite and necessary, as well for the body as the soul’. That’s a reasonable programme for all of us, not just at Christmas but in August too.

David

July 2016

Dear Friends


I love a party! But that’s not always been the case. As a toddler, I was far too shy to enjoy social gatherings of any sort, and preferred to hide behind my Mum rather than join-in as all the other youngsters seemed to do. It perhaps had something to do with being “a unique child” – I much preferred the company of adults, and was a rather grown-up little boy. I think it fair to say I have regressed – since Ordination I discovered the child within me, and have enjoyed being childlike ever since! I now love parties, so to have yet another excuse for a na-tional party seems a great idea. The Queen’s 90th Birthday – what a great thing to celebrate, especially as she is still very much “on top of the job”.


The Queen herself has actually underplayed the occasion; it’s the rest of us who have been making such a fuss. However, she has used the opportunity to give thanks for the source of her strength, and in an unprecedented move she has been involved in the publication of a remarkable little book, “The Servant Queen and the King She Serves.” Compiled by Mark Green and Catherine Butcher, the book focuses on the Queen’s own words to show how her faith has shaped her life and work.


The main thrust of the book, as the title suggests, is our Queen’s steadfast com-mitment to service – service to the nation and its people, service to the Common-wealth of Nations, and above all, service to God. In her Christmas broadcast of 2008 she said, “I hope that, like me, you will be comforted by the example of Jesus of Nazareth who, often in circumstances of great adversity, managed to live an out-going, unselfish and sacrificial life. He made it clear that genuine human happiness and satisfaction lie more in giving rather than receiving; more in serving than in being served.” In a strong statement of faith, the Queen has said that she is ‘very grateful’ to the nation for its prayers for her and that she has felt God’s ‘faithfulness’ during her 64 years on the throne.


“I know just how much I rely on my faith to guide me through the good times and the bad…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.”
The book is intended to be both a gift and a conversation-starter. Our Queen has been unashamedly open about her faith in Christ. Let us make the best of this opportunity that her Ninetieth Birthday has afforded, in sharing her testimony with as many as we can, as we continue to thank God for Her Majesty the Servant Queen, and for her faithful witness to the King of Kings.

David

 

June 2016

On the 25th of this month, our Cathedral in Bury St Edmunds will be holding a very special service - the ordination of priests. It is at that time that those who have an-swered God’s call to ministry are finally ordained as priests, having gone through an agonisingly long process of prayer, discernment, interviews, tests and training – this process sometimes lasting several years.


Our Rural Dean’s curate, Cathy, will be ordained at that time, so I ask you all to pray for her and all those who have answered God’s call to ministry.
It is no secret that those entering ordained ministry is at an all-time low, coupled with the fact that a very large proportion of existing priests are over 50, and so their eventual retirement will leave a huge shortfall. Needless to say, we must be prepared for this. As Linda Woodhead wrote in the Church Times: “There are no longer enough troupers left to keep the show on the road, and the show will have to change.”


In the meantime, we should continue to pray for, and encourage, those who minister to us and give them whatever support we can, along with our appreciation. We can also pray for more people to come forward and offer their lives to Christ and help keep his church alive; please remember that while it is comforting to hope that ‘someone else’ will do it, sometimes you are ‘someone else’.


Jesus urges us to take up our cross and follow in his footsteps and while it is true that (using a little poetic license) St Paul said ‘…not all can be priests…’ somebody has to do it. Cathy has answered our Lord’s call, please keep her in your prayers.
With my prayers and best wishes,

May 2016

Dear  Friends,                                                                  
Do you remember Archbishop Michael Ramsey? He was once asked how long he spends praying each day and after a moment’s thought he answered, “About two  minutes. But it takes me twenty-five minutes to achieve that.”


Prayer can be very difficult; I am often challenged with questions such as: How often should I pray? How should I pray? What should I pray about? How long should I pray for? How do I handle all the intrusive thoughts that keep getting in the way?
There is no single answer to these questions. St Teresa of Avila once wrote that she found prayer very difficult and likened intrusive thoughts to being like flies buzzing round her head when she was trying to work in the vegetable patch.
I once listened to a well-known speaker, Michele Guinness, talk on the subject of prayer and she told of an instance where she discussed the plight of one of her husband’s parishioners with him. At the end of the conversation, he said, “Shall we pray for her?” To which Michele replied: “I thought we just had.”


There is no magic formula to prayer. Pray when you have something to share or to say in a way you feel is right for you, don’t feel that you have to kneel; don’t be overly formal, talk to God as if you are talking to a friend – because you are! Somebody once said they imagine that they are leaving a message on an answering service – why not? It obviously works for them! Pray about the things that bother you or that you want to be thankful for; take as long as you need.


If all else fails, just take some quiet time to sit and be with God. Open yourself to Him and let Him look on you and in you. Jesus once said that before you have opened your mouth to pray, God knows what you need.
With my prayers and best wishes,     Ron 

 

April 2016

Dear Friends,                                                                  
One of the less attractive traits of human beings is the way we load expectations on to people that are unrealistic and unfair.  Then, when the expectations are not met, we criticise the others and not ourselves. 

Jesus was well aware of what people wanted him to be and do.  He knew he could not be the conquering liberator of their imagination because his path was to lead to defeat and death – something very hard for his followers to accept.  St Luke tells us that even when Jesus hung on the cross ‘the leaders scoffed at him, saying “He saved others; let him save himself if he is the Messiah of God, his chosen one!”  The soldiers also mocked him, coming up and offering him sour wine, and saying, “If you are the King of the Jews, save yourself!”’  (Luke 23:35-37.)  These must have been bitter words for the Son of God to hear, when he knew that he could have summoned legions of angels to release him from the cross, but chose not to. 


In that choice he in fact exceeded all expectation.  Instead of liberating the nation he sacrificed himself so that every man, woman and child in the world could come back to God.  That’s how much he loved us. 


No-one on that first Good Friday believed that Jesus would rise again, although he had told them he would.  On Easter Day he turned defeat into victory and silenced the mockery of his enemies by a far greater miracle than stepping down from the cross would have been.  However, he still didn’t do what we might have expected, namely to appear to the Jewish leaders and Roman soldiers.  Instead he appeared secretly to his friends, that not very wonderful bunch of disciples.  Gradually the message that he was alive again spread and spread, so that now all round the world people can rejoice in God’s great work in saving lost humanity.  He has done far more than we could ask, or think, or deserve.  It’s a secret that we can all share in one of our churches over this Easter season and beyond ‘Christ has died; Christ is risen; Christ will come again!’   David

March 2016

At the end of his life, a man arrived at the gates of heaven and was greeted by St Peter, who opened the gates for him to enter, but the man just stood there. After a while, St Peter asked if there was a problem. The man explained that he couldn’t understand why he was being allowed in to heaven because he considered himself unworthy and that he knew he had often not lead a good life. "The important thing is that God loves you and forgives everything that you have done," explained St Peter.

 

"I can’t understand that," said the man "how can anyone possibly love me that much?"

Saint Peter scratched his chin and said, "Look, do you remember your dog Patch?"

"Oh yes, he was a lovely dog, I was heartbroken when he died."

"Why?" said St Peter, "He was very naughty, he was always getting you into trouble, he chewed your shoes, the furniture, the children’s toys and he wasn’t popular with your neighbours was he?"

"No he wasn’t," said the man with a smile, "but I really loved him, no matter what he did."

"Ah, so if you can forgive and still love a dog like that, how much more do you think God can love and forgive you? So much, that he sacrificed his own Son for you at Easter, to show how much he loves all of us."  "But I never really understood Jesus."

St Peter chuckled, "Tell me about it. Look, you actually prayed for Patch after he died didn’t you? It was one of the few occasions in your life you actually spoke to God."  "Yes, I did."

"Well God listens, and Patch is in there waiting for you right now!"With a smile, the man walked through the gates.

I hope you all have a happy and joyful Easter.

With my prayers and best wishes,

Ron

February

Dear Friends

In this benefice we are served by 10 Churchwardens, there are six churchwarden posts unoccupied. The post of churchwarden has been legally recognised in England since the twelfth century and it is normal for there to be two wardens per parish, it is one of the longest standing official posts in this country. The work of the churchwarden has increased over the ages especially when it became the responsibility of the congregation to pay for the upkeep and improvement of the church building. Churchwardens take on the leading role for the whole community in church mat-ters; because it is the whole community of the parish and not just the congregation that appoints them. Each year there is a short meeting held before the AGM when the wardens are elected. Every parish member is eligible to vote at this meeting because within their role churchwardens not only represent the bishop to the parish but also the parish to the bishop.

To be a churchwarden you must be baptised, you must be on the church’s electoral roll and a regu-lar communicant. Soon after they are elected the Archdeacon who represents the Bishop admits the wardens to their office. Each year the Bishop will send enquiries to the churchwardens so that he can be kept abreast of any concerns felt in the parishes along with any joys that are being experi-enced. According to church-law a churchwarden’s main tasks are the upkeep of the church building and its contents so that it is in a fit state for worship and depending upon their own skills and abili-ties they may lead worship and undertake pastoral work. During an interregnum, (the time be-tween a priest leaving and another coming) Churchwardens share the responsibility for the running of the church and its worship in partnership with the rural dean.

In these days when multi-parish benefices are becoming the norm churchwardens take on an ever increasing roll and we should be grateful to those who give of their time so freely and conscien-tiously; because we/I, would be sunk without them. There are currently two parishes without churchwardens and there are two parishes that only have one in post. If you feel you have some-thing to offer and would want to become part of that long line of men and women who over the years have looked after the churches in this benefice then why not offer your services. The par-ishes currently without wardens are Tannington and Bedfield, the parishes with only one warden are Cratfield and Monk Soham.

I would like to take this opportunity to thank all my churchwardens for their constant support and I hope that you will all want to carry on with your good offices for the next year. David