Paxtonvic’s Blog

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Poems for a Friday night

R.S Thomas:

In Church

Often I try

To analyse the quality

Of its silence. Is this where God hides

From my searchings?  I have stopped to listen,

After the few people have gone,

To the air recomposing itself

For vigil. It has waited like this

Since the stomes grouped themselves about it.

These are the hard ribs

Of a body that our prayers have failed to animate. Shadows advance

From their corners to take possession

Of places light held

For an hour. Bats resume their business. The uneasiness of the pews

Ceases. There is no other sound

In the darkness but the sound of a man

Breathing, testing his faith

On emptiness, nailing his questions

One by one to an untenanted cross.

And lines from ” The Belfry” also by R.S. Thomas

…..for religion
Is like that. There are times
When a black frost is upon
One’s whole being, and the heart
In its bone belfry hangs and is dumb.

Religion is a search for a presence which is defined by its absence”

For Now

A poem written by Andrew Motion for the English Heritage ” Inspire!” campaign.

In the mind’s eye, in the memory-store, for now
The church sets sail but stays where it was built,
Its anchor hooked into the parish-heart.
In the green yard, in the deep grass, for now
Each summer-tide swells up and leaves the dead
Untouched inside their plots of tilted earth.
In the flint nave, in the window-shafts, for now
The glassy saints grow limber with the sun
That ripples through their robes and walk again.
In the blind vault, in the dry hush, for now
The coffins hoard their argosies of dust
And darkness gleams as definite as light.
In the slow years, in the centuries, for now
The villagers arrive to load the ark
That saves their lives and settles here as home.

Sir Andrew Motion  ( Former Poet Laureate)


July 31, 2009 Posted by | Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Cut short by Radio Cambridge

Just minding my own business when Radio Cambridge rang and asked about our upcoming and much hoped for plans at St James Little Paxton Church. You know the sort of thing – re-hang the bells, new ringers’ floor, new heating system, new level floor,  re-plastering in parts, redecoration and SHOCK HORROR – removing all the late twentieth century not very important pews and replacing them with tasteful oak comfy chairs which people can sit on for more than 10 minutes without getting a numb posterior. We calling all of this CHUFT – Church for Tomorrow – as the aim is to make the church building fit for purpose for the the people of the future who might want to do more than just worship there on a Sunday.

So, a nice lady told me that they would ring me back in 5 mintes and do a live interview for the news. Managed to get nicely winded up ready to roll when they  rang…. but when they did, I was told  it wouldnt be live but recorded – so rabbited on for some minutes about my favourite passion – refurbishing churches and making them fit for purpose.  Its like pressing a button and on I go. Dont know when it will be broadcast – she said it would be a filler!

I didnt mention the wonderful tynpanum we have above the entrance to the church:

tynpanum 2

But no plans to change that in any way …. will do a blog about our mysterious feature another day….

July 31, 2009 Posted by | Uncategorized | Leave a comment

No chalice – no good?

I am very grateful to Revd Ally Barrett, Vicar of Buckden with the Offords in St Neots’ Deanery for writing a piece about Swine ‘Flu and the real presence in the Eucharist. Now that many churches are offering the wafer/bread and not the chalice  as a precautionry measure,  this piece may assit some of you to think through what it means to say that Christ is present in the Eucharist.

Many thanks to Ally for letting her thoughts go public – you can also read them on her blog:

I will post them now and also on a page at the top of the site.

Friday, 31 July 2009

Swine Flu and the Real Presence in the Eucharist

So, sharing the common cup at communion is no longer an option, and the congregations in my churches will be receiving only the bread for the foreseeable future – and that might be for a while. I wanted to share why, for me, receiving communion ‘in one kind’ is still just as valid as receiving both the bread and wine.
Now, I am someone who very much believes in the Real Presence of Christ in the Eucharist. But my understanding is that the reality of Christ’s presence is spiritual, not physical (the physical bread and the wine in the sacrament are not there because God needs them in order to be present with us, but because we find that they help us ‘notice’ that he is there). It is not that the spiritual reality of Christ’s presence is somehow piggy-backing on the physical reality of bread and wine, but rather that the physical reality of bread and wine help to make visible and tangible the prior spiritual reality of the presence of Christ.
Think about the resurrection appearances of Jesus, when he walked through solid walls and locked doors. Was that because Jesus was somehow insubstantial, like a ghost, compared to the solid physical wall? Or was it rather that Jesus was so real, so substantial, that the solid wall was insubstantial in comparison? The spiritual world is not less real than the physical world, it is more real.
When we receive communion, we are eating bread, but through faith we are receiving so much more than that – the very real (more real than anythning else) spiritual presence of Christ in our lives. If there were no bread in the world, and the wine had all run dry, Christ would still be just as real, and just as present with us.
Not sure if that will help anyone with the current situation of not being able to receive communion wine, but it did help me.
No doubt someone will tell me if it’s totally heretical!

Revd Ally Barrett

bread and wine

July 31, 2009 Posted by | Uncategorized | 2 Comments


Dandelion hiding in the waste ground near to my garden.

You wont find it in a garden centre in a flashy pot with a price tag but it has a unique beauty of its own.

July 30, 2009 Posted by | Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Hot air church


“Hot air and churches have a long, interwoven history, but it took Mike Gill from Southampton finally to bring them together. The world’s first inflatable church, which cost a cool £15,000 to make, is 47ft high from ground to steeple and includes a blow-up organ, altar, pulpit, pews, candles and “stained glass” windows. But sadly, when we spoke to Mike recently, nobody had yet hired it for what it is intended – wedding services, at a cost of up to £2,000 a go.

“If the bride and groom are called Ann and Peter, then we can call the church St Peter or St Ann, so they can even put that on the invitation,” he ventured. Er, ye-es… Perhaps someone should tell Mike that people like admiring, discussing and criticising churches. Actually going inside them is, however, another matter ”

Thanks again to Ship of Fools for this fascinating article.

Hey – it wouldnt need a faculty – though brides in high heels would need to take care…..

July 30, 2009 Posted by | Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Funny what you read in those quiet moments

Always have a copy of Church Times on hand when communing with nature  (a wonderful euphenism) and July 17th edition provided  splendid entertainment earlier.

Ship of Fools web-site ( is searching for  the ” textus rejectus”  – the Bible verse which most people would like to see ” fired from the canon of Scripture” .

Featured in their online section ” Chapter and Verse” they are urging people to send in verses that are ” irreemably naff, mind-numbingly boring or offensive and cruel”.

Verses to have been named so far are Psalm 137.9 ” Blessed shall he be who takes your little ones and dashes them against the rock”

There is still time to vote – one more day infact, so if you have a particular verse you would like removed – why not log onto Ship Of  Fools?

ship of fools

I must say, I tend to find all the genealogies pretty dull – which surprises me as I love researching my family tree and making long lists of my ancestors.

July 30, 2009 Posted by | Uncategorized | Leave a comment


Paxtonvic is reflective  as news of the death of a dear member of our congregation came to us this morning. Im very careful about confidentiality on this blog, so those of you who know our community here at Little Paxton will know who  I mean. She was one of the kindest and friendliest  Christian ladies I have ever known – someone who constantly helped  and welcomed other people but who also  delighted in receiving  friendship as well and joining in with all sorts of events and activities.

Although well into her 80’s, she was active right up until a couple  of weeks ago and she is going to leave a big hole in our church lives together.

These words keep coming  into my mind:

You can shed tears that she is gone

Or you can smile because she has lived

You can close your eyes and pray that she will come back

Or you can open your eyes and see all that she has left

Your heart can be empty because you can’t see her

Or you can be full of the love that you shared

You can turn your back on tomorrow and live yesterday

Or you can be happy for tomorrow because of yesterday

You can remember her and only that she is gone

Or you can cherish her memory and let it live on

You can cry and close your mind, be empty and turn your back

Or you can do what she would want: smile, open your eyes, love and go on.

written 1981

David Harkins 1959 –

Silloth, Cumbria, UK

” I am persuaded that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor principalities, or powers, nor things present nor things to come, not height, nor depth, nor anything else in all creation will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord.”  Romans 8 v 38,39.

July 30, 2009 Posted by | Uncategorized | 2 Comments

Helpful post/blog on the ” communion in one kind” debate

Have come across this blog post:

written by Rev James Ogley – its one ofthe most helpful things Ive read yet on the matter- so if the issue of discontinuing use of the chalice is worrying you or your congregation, its worth a read:

Last week, a letter was sent by the Archbishops of Canterbury and York to all diocesan bishops in the Church of England saying that in the current pandemic situation of Swine Flu, the use of the chalice in Holy Communion ought to be suspended. Yesterday, at our three (three!) communion services, we used wafers only and did not even have a chalice on the table. Discussion was abounding last night on Twitter about this with me offering some brief (140 characters at a time of course) theological thoughts on the subject. Interest was expressed in a fuller treatment of my position and so here it is.

The first thing I should do is explain roughly where I sit (or stand perhaps?) within the multi-dimensional continuum that is self-designated ecclesial identity (or churchmanship if you prefer). I’m an evangelical but I definitely spell it with a lower-case ‘e’. I don’t belong to any of the evangelical power-groups in the church and I have very little time at all for GAFCON/FCA/Anglican Mainstream. My passion is for getting to grips with what the scriptures – both the Hebrew Bible and the Christian scriptures – really say (or as close as possible) and not what a particular tradition within the modern reformed church tells us they ought to say. Style-wise, I’m pretty informal, sort of Anglo-Vineyard although when it comes to robing (when I have to), I would appear more catholic as I’ll normally be seen in cassock-alb with stole. That’s really just to help people who don’t actually know me personally to get a grip on where I’m coming from in this.

The Church of England has always had provision for communion to be administered in one kind only. The Rt Revd John Packer (Bishop of Ripon and Leeds) helpfully reminded us all last month of the Sacrament Act 1547 which says that two kinds is the norm but when neccessary, one kind will do (my paraphrase). The order for the administration of home communion in Common Worship Pastoral Services allows for the one kind to be either bread or wine. The letter from the Archbishops basically has advised the use of a chalice for the purpose of intincting (dipping) wafers in the case of people who absolutely wish to receive in both kinds (and presumably, the president at the service would also receive then in both kinds). That’s the national situation.

As I said, we dispensed with even having a chalice on the table. There are a variety of reasons for this both theological and practical. The practicality first. If the purpose is to avoid the possibility of transmission of infection then intinction even by the elder (there’s a whole other article to be written on why I use the word elder as a translation of the Greek πρεσβυτερος rather than priest) is likely to transmit infection in the event of one person receiving having the infection as any other means of receiving in both kinds. Secondly a theological rationale. The presence of a chalice from which only the president receives represents a distinction between that person and the rest of the congregation. We’ve done away with language of a ‘celebrant’ in favour of ‘president’ to represent the fact that the community as a whole is celebrating and one of that community is presiding during that service, a president-only chalice would be a step (or more) backwards. In fact, it would be a move back to the bad old days of medieval catholicism with only the priest receiving a full communion. Having one member of the community receive in both kinds undermines the message that receiving in one kind is acceptable and represents a full communion.

So, why can receiving in one kind alone be acceptable? There is a significance in the words that we use. When we recall the institution of the sacrament in the eucharistic prayer and when we invite people to receive the element[s], the language that is used is of body and blood. Turning to 1 Corinthians 11, likely the earliest written version of the institution narrative, we see exactly this formula with Paul using the word σωμα which we translate body in verse 24. Generally when Paul uses this word (and he uses it a lot), he uses it to indicate the whole being of a person. Receiving the body of the Messiah implies receiving the blood. Interestingly, the reverse does not appear to naturally be true but there is an extent to which we take it on faith that if a person cannot take solid food then receiving wine only will do. We do not invite people to receive the flesh and blood of the Messiah but the body and so in a situation where neccesity requires us to only use bread, the full communion is implied. The second set of words that have significance are from the invitation to communion:

Draw near with faith, receive the body of our Lord Jesus Christ which he gave for you
and his blood which he shed for you.
Eat and drink in remembrance that Christ died for you
and feed on him in your hearts by faith with thanksgiving.

In order to make sense in the context of not sharing a chalice, I removed the words in italics and replaced the underlined words with “this gift”. The key clause is the one in bold type. The act of communion is one of faith. Jesus promises to be present in the Eucharist – the thanksgiving – not if we get the consecration right technically, not if we use the right words or make sure we’re using both elements but if we approach him in faith.

One final thought that arose as a result of thinking about this and it’s about wafers. Communion wafers and a common cup are the default position in the Church of England normally. Wafers are very useful for counting the number of communicants without a doubt but the element that reflects us as being one body (of the Messiah – again, σωμα) is for Paul the sharing of one loaf (1 Cor 10.17). This is perhaps a great opportunity to reclaim sharing one loaf rather than wafers. Theologically and symbolically there is enormous benefit and in terms of the risk of transmitting infection, this is likely no greater than with wafers. It may make counting communicants more difficult but I’d sacrifice adminstrative ease for theological and symbolic significance any day.

Paxtovic writes: I know of some clergy/rural deans who are getting flack from folk in congregations as the chalice is being withdrawn – and it isnt always easy to know how to respond in a theologically sensitive way.

There is quite a lot of debate going on now on blogs about this topic – and maybe we can see it as a good time to open up discussion on the meaning of the Eucharist?

July 29, 2009 Posted by | Uncategorized | 3 Comments

Rural Dean fantasy birthday wish list

How old would you be if you dont know how old you are ???

( Think about it)

And  now…

What would be the perfect birthday present for a Rural Dean?

1) 1oo gift wrapped bottles of alcohol gel

2) A consignment of files for various meetings and church inspections

3) A three wheeler electric  bike for getting round the parishes

4) A natty wardrobe of outfits for Deanery Synod meetings

5) Endless supply of  retired clergy to cover for sickness/interegna/holidays

6) Hotline to God for solving those tricky questions about communion in one kind.

7) Online sermons on tap service for those busy sundays

8) More hours in the day every day ( how did the smiley face get there?)

9) A good nights  sleep every night without dreaming of putting out fires

10)  A household of servants to fetch and carry.

11) lots more foresight and less hindsight

12) A pot of gold to take a chapter member out for lunch once a week

and… a loo in every deanery church ( getting there!)

Not asking much surely?

st clements piccie 2

Class of c 1962 – St Clements School, Boscombe. Spot Paxtonvic?

July 29, 2009 Posted by | Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Mary and Martha remembered on July 29th

On July 29th,  Mary, Martha and Lazarus, Companions of Jesus are remembered in our lectionary. So forgive me for missing out Lazarus – here is a little homily about the two sisters.

Sermon on Martha and Mary. July 29th 2009

Some thoughts for you  on this short and intriguing episode in Bethany when Jesus meets with two sisters.

It follows on from the story of the Good Samaritan and Luke sets it during Jesus’ last journey to Jerusalem in Bethany, which wasn’t very far from the big city. In the verses from Luke Chapter 10  we seem to have two women with contrating  temperaments

A little rhyme first.

“ Lord of all pots and pans and things,

Since I’ve had no time to be,

A saint by doing lovely things

Or watching late with thee,

Or dreaming in the dawnlight

Or storming heavens gates,

Make me a saint by getting meals

And washing up the plates.

If we look at the two sisters and their two temperaments as many have read them, it wasn’t that Martha was wrong being an activist and Mary right for taking the listening, contemplative role. Maybe we could say that at that particular time in  Jesus’ ministry- just as he is making  his way towards Jerusalem and all that he had to face- Jesus did not need a lot of activity and doing around him – he needed an oasis of quiet from the demanding crowds. That is what maybe Mary was trying to give him and poor Martha, rushing around trying to be the perfect host just hadn’t realised that was what he needed.

marymartha-tintorettosm Mary and Martha by Tintoretto

When Jesus says “ One things is necessary” – he might well have meant that he just needed the simplest of meals – and quiet time to be listened to and rest. Martha and Mary no doubt loved Jesus equally, but Martha just hadn’t quite sensed where Jesus was at. She needed to be reminded that sometimes its quality time someone wants, time to be listened to and simply held in someone’s attention, not business and action which maybe she was more naturally gifted at. Somehow Mary had understood and Jesus praised her for it.

Sometimes those of us who are naturally active and busy need to be sensitive to the need for times of quietness- those of us who are quieter and don’t immediately run for the sticking plasters need to be aware when practical action is needed.

I wonder, how good are we at sensing what it is that some really needs? Can we adapt our natural temperaments to be fully attuned to the needs of the moment?

I would suggest that it is no co-incidence that the story follows on that of the parable of the Good Samaritan in which  Jesus is commending the importance of concrete love in action. It’s no good following the laws of God down to the finest detail if it paralyses us from taking constructive and positive action.

Maybe this Martha and Mary story follows to balance up the teaching on action and doing.

Someone once said, reflecting on the business of human beings in today’s frenetic age that we ought to be called human “doings” and not human “ beings”.

In the Martha and Mary story Jesus can be understood as  saying that we must create times in our every day lives to just BE in the presence of God. To be fed and nourished by him.To be refreshed and healed and forgiven. Without that spiritual feeding, we will not have the strength, wisdom nor courage to carry out our life of doing. The greatest doers in religious history have always been devout people of prayer. Neglect prayer and listening to God and the source for all our doing dries up. Motivation goes. The vision is lost.

The  episode  can be seen as a corrective to the activism portryaed in the parable of the Good Samaritan. And not surpirsingly, the next stories that follow are about prayer – the next verses have Jesus  sharing with us the wonderful words of the Lords Prayer.

” Lord, temper with tranquility my manifold activity that I may do my work for thee with very great simplicity” – ascribed to a medieval monk

July 28, 2009 Posted by | Uncategorized | 2 Comments