Paxtonvic’s Blog

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Nearly New Sale

Next Saturday is the day….. Little Paxton Church’s first fund raising event for the Church For Tomorrow Project ( CHUFT)

We are holding a nearly new sale in Little Paxton School from 10.30 onwards with yummy cakes and refreshments. In the old days, they used to be called Jumble Sales – I loved them – but they seem to have gone a bit more  up market now…..

It would be great to make  £100,000 next Saturday, but I dont expect we will – a few hundred would be good.

Anyone living locally who has some unwanted items on their households, they would be very gratefully received at school on the morning.

My job will be to count the money…

No, thats monopoly money, silly!

Off to have a nice supper – need all my energy for ” Lark Rise ” tonight – looks like it could be a bit sad. There was me thinking the sky was always blue and the sun shone on that little community..

January 31, 2010 Posted by | Uncategorized | 6 Comments

Moving rooms

The thing is, when i first came to Little Paxton Vicarage, the study was in the converted part of the original garage. It was a good size, but somehow there didnt seem to be enough room. Now I shouldnt really  say that because some clergy I know have a very small study and dont have any chance of a make-over.  18 months ago, the Diocesan Parsonages Board were most gracious in extending the downstairs accommodation in the vicarage, including making the study even bigger. Those heady days of living upstairs for 4 months seem a long time ago now but the kindness of parishioners who bought me meals round when there was no electricity downstairs will remain for ever.Shame that had to finish really…..

So, for the last 18 months Ive been in the extended study and have spent most of my working hours ( working vicarage hours) in there. The carpet that was put down is rather grey. I asked for a lighter colour and choose one from an internet site – but the real thing proved to be darker than I thought. Never mind, I thought, It wont show the dirt. But with the low ceiling and the dark carpet and a littlish window over the months I have got a bit fed up in there – not least in the winter months. So, having got back from church today I decided to go for it. I have moved my computer and essential  office stuff into the new front room which is full of light and has a lovely view of the front garden. Ive also got a nice comfy chair in the front room I can sink into after a hard hour sorting some admin!

Incase you might think – what a waste of a big study – I would say that I have cleaned it out and made it a most presentable room where I can see parishioners without all the computer clobber bearing down on us.  There is also a large amount of paperwork all neatly housed in there, including Deanery material and local history files – so the study has an  archivical aspect. ( Doubt if Ive spelt that right!)

Which all goes to show that the environment we  live and work in is very important. Im very mindful of people across the world who live in terrible conditions and have no choice about how and where they live. I know I am very lucky to be where I am and – even when I remember that this isnt my permanent home . Its only on loan to me whislt I am Vicar here – and one day I will have to move on. Guess thats  a bit like  life really – we wont always be here – but whislt we are, what a privilege it is to care for our world and the people we spend our days with.

The New HQ … good job teddy bear is keeping an eye on things.

January 31, 2010 Posted by | Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Concerning Candlemas

This Sunday there is the option in our lectionary to celebrate Candlemas. This  Christian feast is observed on February 2nd but as its only two days away, this Sunday seems a good time as any to think about it. Here is a homily for Candlemas with some additional old poems and folk lore added on.

Hebrews 2 v 14-18

Luke: 2 v 22-40.

We come today to the ancient Christian feast of Candlemas, knowledge of the origins of which for many Christians may be slight.  Incase you are not too sure how it all came about, let me remind you briefly.

Candlemas is a Christian festival that commemorates the ritual purification of Mary 40 days after the birth of Jesus. It also marks the presentation of the infant Jesus in the temple.

This goes back to the Jewish tradition that women were considered unclean after the birth of a child, and were not permitted to enter the temple to worship.

But 40 days after the birth of a male child, or 80 days after the birth of a female child, a woman had to go to the temple or synagogue for her purification, taking with her a lamb to be sacrificed. After this she join public worship again and public life.

Echoes of this rather archaic view come through in the old prayer book service for the churching of women after childbirth.

According to Mosaic law, Mary and Joseph would also have brought their first-born son to the temple forty days after his birth to offer him to God, like all first-born sons, along with a pair of turtledoves.

The Presentation was originally celebrated in Jerusalem on November 21st but once Christ’s birth was fixed on December 25th (near the winter solstice), the Presentation and Purification rituals would fall forty days later in early February.

Pope Sergius declared it should be celebrated with processions and candles, to commemorate Simeon’s description of the child Jesus as a light to lighten the Gentiles. Candles blessed on this day were used as a protection from evil.

The readings for the service always contained  Luke’s account of the meeting of Jesus and his mother with the aged Simeon and  Anna – thus in the greek-speaking world the feast was called HYPAPANTE ( The encounter or meeting)

When Simeon encountered Jesus, The Messiah, after such a long, long wait in his life, he spoke those famous words which became known as The Nunc Dimittis – one of the canticles in evening prayer. Lord now lettest thou they servant depart in peace, according to thy word” He goes on to refer to Jesus as  “ a light to lighten the gentiles”  and from this reference the traditions of lighting candles and having processions with them grew up around candlemas.  The warm candlelight was intended to be a tangible reminder of that greater light which, for  and beyond all time, radiates from the figure of Jesus.

As with the feast of Christ’s birth – Christmas -which replaced the Roman mid-winter festival of Saturnalia –some think that  Candlemas replaced a pagan Roman feast that was celebrated  some 40 days after their Saturnalia.  This ancient Roman feast had included a rather dissolate carnival which had magical features: its supposed effect was to purify the city and repel evil powers.

But in the Christian processions on Candlemas – feast of candles- the dark world of the pagans was met with the bright light of Jesus Christ – a light to lightened the gentiles. Darkness encountering the light of Christ.

Out with the old superstitious beliefs, in with the light of the risen Christ to dispel peoples fears and darkness.

If you search for information about candlemas on the internet, you might be surprised to learn that candlemas, given other various names, is also regarded as a key time in the world of folklore and white magic. A time when the forces of darkness are giving way to the forces of light.  There is something also at candlemas about its position in the seasons of the year.  Candlemas is a cross quarter day, halfway between the winter solstice and the spring equinox. Many northern european pagans celebrated in various  ways on the quarter days and cross quarter days. It was no wonder that early Christians made a big Christian celebration out of Candlemas which gave new converts something wholesome to do rather than get involved with pagan activities.

Still, we might still find things of interest from the folklore attached to this time of year:

If Candlemas day be sunny and bright

Winter again will show us its might

If Candlemas day be cloudy and grey

Winter will soon pass away.

In the USA candlemas is called groundhog day – groundhogs being the equivalent of our hedgehogs. Why groundhog day?

Well, the groundhog coming out of his hole reminds us that winter is half over. The days are beginning to get longer. Spring is just around the corner. The tale goes that if when the groundhog comes out of his hole, and there is a shadow behind him, then the sun is shining – and winter still will be showing its might for some weeks. If there is no shadow, then  the sun isnt shining and winter will soon pass away. So, look out for hedgehogs today – any shadows around them?

Finally, Candlemas became the day when the supply of church candles was blessed. Worshippers would each be given a candle to take home to light at times of worry or fright, to light in the room of someone who was ill, to give comfort in an ancient world where darkness was far more evasive than in our 24/7 lit world.

This little whistle stop tour of the history of candlemas hopefully shows how tributaries from many historical and cultural sources have  shaped it. Of course, as with many old christian feasts, modern services tend to water down or forget its significance all together.

But if we focus on the theme on Jesus bringing light into the world then it can have a powerful and enduring significance for us.

Just take the image of a small flame burning in a dark room. Imagine the effect that the small flickering light has on the darkness. It’s a beautiful image for how the light of Christ can come into the dark areas of our lives and bring warm comfort.

Prayer which focuses on imaging warm, soft light entering our hearts and minds can bring us closer to a sense of Christ who ever wants to heal, comfort and strengthen us.

Then again, as Christians, we are called to  “shine as lights in the world, to the glory of God the Father”  – to quote the words in the baptism service when candles are given out after baptism. If we are bearers of Christ’s light – then we can’t but help reflect that light outwards to people we meet and situations we are in.

In our prayers too we can ask for Christs light to surround and heal a bitter and angry world. Imagine His light around the countries and communities which are hurting and angry. Imagine a gentle glow around the whole earth, created and loved into existence by God when he said “ Let  there be light” .

So – just a few suggestions for  making Candlemas relevant  in our contemporary Christian lives.  Whilst some of the origins of the feast and original ideas behind it may seem archaic to us now – the theme of Christs light and its healing powers is just as powerful and   necessary as ever.

Take a candle with you today, take it home and spend a few minutes with it lit as you pray for Christs life in your lives, in the lives of those who are hurting and fearful  and in the world.


* Traditionally On Candlemas Eve all Christmas greens must be taken down.

Robert Herrick ( The 17th century English Poet)  has this little poem on the subject:

Down with the Rosemary, and so
Down with the Baies and Mistletoe;
Down with the Holly, Ivie, all
Wherewith ye drest the Christmas Hall;
That so the superstitious find
Not one least branch there left behind,
For look, how many leaves there be
Neglected there, Maids, trust to me,
So many Goblins you shall see.

He also alludes to the reservation of part of the candles or torches, as calculated to have the effect of protecting from mischief:

Kindle the Christmas brand, and then
Till sunset let it burn
Which quenched, then lay it up again,
Till Christmas next return

Part must be kept, wherewith to teend
The Christmas log next year;
And where ’tis safely kept, the fiend
Can do no mischief there.

Here is a modern Christian Prayer for Candlemas

Lord of Light,

Enable us to carry with us

Through our daily lives,

The light of your presence.

May we fear no danger

May we reflect your love and light

In our words and deeds.


January 31st is called in the Churches Year ”  Septuagesima” – which means “seventieth”. It is the name given to the third from last sunday before Lent.

Here is a it more info from Wikipedia:

Septuagesima comes from the Latin word for “seventieth,” with Sexagesima and Quinquagesima equalling “sixtieth” and “fiftieth” respectively. They are patterned after the Latin word for the season of Lent, Quadragesima, which means “fortieth” because Lent is forty days long (not counting the Sundays, which are all considered little Easters). Because a week is only seven days long, not ten, and since even then only six of those days might be counted if the pattern of Quadragesima is followed, Septuagesima, Sexagesima, and Quinquagesima, obviously don’t literally correspond to the periods of time they imply. Some have theorized, however, that Septuagesima may have been added to the liturgical calendar to commemorate the Babylonian Captivity, which lasted 70 years (there is evidence that some early Christians began fasting 70 days before Easter, but whether that custom originated from this is not entirely clear). It is interesting, however, that just about 70 days (68 actually) is the minimum number of days between the octave day of the Epiphany on January 13 and Easter, implying that a season just about 70 days long can always fit between the two.

I think I’ll stick to Candlemas tomorrow!

January 30, 2010 Posted by | Uncategorized | 1 Comment


January 29, 2010 Posted by | Uncategorized | Leave a comment

More church poetry

Thanks  to ” allrevdup” for this lovely poem by ee.cummings

i am a little church(no great cathedral)
far from the splendor and squalor of hurrying cities
-i do not worry if briefer days grow briefest,
i am not sorry when sun and rain make april

my life is the life of the reaper and the sower;
my prayers are prayers of earth’s own clumsily striving
(finding and losing and laughing and crying)children
whose any sadness or joy is my grief or my gladness

around me surges a miracle of unceasing
birth and glory and death and resurrection:
over my sleeping self float flaming symbols
of hope,and i wake to a perfect patience of mountains

i am a little church(far from the frantic
world with its rapture and anguish)at peace with nature
-i do not worry if longer nights grow longest;
i am not sorry when silence becomes singing

winter by spring,i lift my diminutive spire to
merciful Him Whose only now is forever:
standing erect in the deathless truth of His presence
(welcoming humbly His light and proudly His darkness)

ee cummings

January 29, 2010 Posted by | Uncategorized | Leave a comment

For Now – a poem for people that love old churches

For Now

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.

By Andrew Motion  ( formerly Poet Laureate)

commissioned by the Inspired!  Campaign initiated by English Heritage*

The Inspired! campaign was launched in May 2006, with the aim of making a case to Government for more support for those who manage and maintain historic places of worship. Five solutions were put forward, which English Heritage, Government and the denominations and faiths could collectively pursue in order to stem the rising costs of repairs and ensure a sustainable future for the buildings.
for more info go to:

This is All Saints Church in Sheepy Magna which received a large grant from English Heritage to re-roof the nave in 2005. I must be having an attack of nostalgia – Sheepy Church was one of five churches in The Sheepy Group I served in during the 2000’s – I walked up that path many times. Time is a mystery to be sure – I left there in October 2006 but it still feels like yesterday.
I went to bed much earlier last night and felt all the better for it today. So time now to hit the sack as they say. ( Im not sure who!)

January 27, 2010 Posted by | Uncategorized | 1 Comment


Sometimes Im a bit reluctant to go outside of my nice warm coup and journey into a  chilly church. At least its not snowing today. But needs must and there will be some nice warm people there.

Photo from:

January 27, 2010 Posted by | Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Naughty Ducks

January 24, 2010 Posted by | Uncategorized | Leave a comment

sunday evening

Just enjoyed the 4th episode of Lark Rise to Candleford ( Series 3) on BBC TV – just love the simple stories and beautiful location. Been reading about the author Flora Thompson on whose trilogy of books the BBC tv  adaptation is based (Lark Rise in 1939, Over to Candleford in 1941 and Candleford Green in 1943)

Flora was also a poet and here is one of her poems:

GARDEN FIRES – Flora Thompson

A drift of wood and weed-smoke
Floats o’er the garden spaces,
Circling the orchard tree-tops;
They’re burning up the traces
Of Winter from the earth,
Now Spring has birth.

Soft showers of snowy petals
Bestrew the bright, lush green;
Blue smokewreaths wheel and thicken
As warm winds stir between,
And living tongues of flame
Put daffodils to shame.

And men shall make such fires,
And warm Spring winds blow free,
When all the great desires
Which rend the heart of me
Shall dwindle into dust,
For Time is just!

I wish so much that warm spring winds would blow free into the lives of those I know who are very sad and troubled at this time.

Flower Meadow, Trinity College Cambridge by Michael Fordham Spring 2009.

January 24, 2010 Posted by | Uncategorized | Leave a comment

What clergy keep under their beds- and poems for comfort

I wonder if Im the only Vicar who has a veritable store of goodies under their bed? I had a good look this afternoon, and found amongst a collection of dog collars and old sermons, some copies of the Church Times dating back to 2007! I tend to read them in bed and then forget Ive pushed them underneath the bedframe for safe keeping.

So, I gave a few a glance whilst having a quiet moment and was taken by an article from a more recent copy –  8th January 2010 – one with the least dust on it!  Page 14 had an artilce headed:

” Poetry remembered lifts the veil ”  written by John Andrew Denny. Mr Denny suffers from ME which struck him in 1991.  He writes eloquently how poetry has helped him a great deal during his years of illness – reflecting 0n  St Paul’s words from Romans 5 ” suffering teaches us patience, patience brings perseverance, and perseverance gives rise to hope” . He says ” I admit I have  never quite rejoiced in my suffering, but through poetry I built a sanctuary of understanding which helped preserve me from despindency and resentment”.

In another paragraph he continues: ” The return to wakefulness is a good time to read poetry, because  of  the mind’s enhanced receptiveness to those subconscious elements that distinguish poetry from other forms of writing. It was a prayer-like poem by Ruth Pitter * which makes use of these elements, which first made me realise the spiritual importance of stillness:

” Cure me with quietness

Bless me with peace;

Comfort my heaviness,

Stay me with ease.

Stillness in solitude

Send down like dew;

Mine armour of fortitude

piece and make new:

That when I rise again

I may shine bright

As the sky after rain,

Day after night.

Mr Denny is planning to collect poems which he has found most comforting into an anthology, with the provisional title “Poems of  Consolation for the Chronically Ill and in  Pain.  He invites anyone who is or has been ill to send him the poems or prayer-poems that they turn to for inspiration. His e-mail address is:

* About Ruth Pitter:

Emma Thomas “Ruth” Pitter, CBE, FRSL (7 November 1897 – 29 February 1992) was a 20th century British poet.

She was the first woman to receive the Queen’s Gold Medal for Poetry in 1955, and was appointed a CBE in 1979 to honour her many contributions to English literature.

In 1974, she was named a “Companion of Literature”, the highest honour given by the Royal Society of Literature

In her words:

Did I tell you I’d taken to Christianity? Yes, I went & got confirmed a year ago or more. I was driven to it by the pull of C. S. Lewis and the push of misery. Straight prayer book Anglican, nothing fancy […] I realize what a tremendous thing it is to take on, but I can’t imagine turning back. It cancels a great many of one’s miseries at once, of course: but it brings great liabilities, too.

  • Letter, Ruth Pitter to Nettle Palmer, dated Jan. 1, 1948.

Cited in The anatomy of a friendship: the correspondence of Ruth Pitter and C.S. Lewis, 1946-1962, Don W. King

Ruth in her garden

January 23, 2010 Posted by | Uncategorized | 1 Comment