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Dear Parishioners

As anyone who knows me will testify, planning well ahead is not one of my strengths! But over these past few months it has been my privilege to help with the planning of the 2025 diocesan celebrations, which has included me creating a micro website to promote and support the varied programme of activities. So, what's it all about?

On the Feast of Saint Richard (16th June), also known as Sussex Day, the Diocese of Chichester and Chichester Cathedral unveiled plans to mark two important anniversaries coming up next year. In 2025, Sussex will celebrate the Christian faith, marking the 950th anniversary of the Diocese of Chichester and Chichester Cathedral, as well as the l700th anniversary of when the Nicene Creed first emerged.

In 1075 the decision was made to move the seat of the Bishop from Selsey to the more populous town of Chichester, the former Roman settlement known as Noviomagus Reginorum. The original Cathedral and Bishop's Palace were rebuilt on the present site in the early 13th century after a disastrous fire. The Diocese retains its original boundaries, serving the people of East and West Sussex and Brighton and Hove.

2025 also marks the l700th anniversary of the Council of Nicaea which resulted in the Nicene Creed emerging — this statement of belief is still widely used by Christians across the world today including, on most Sundays, in St Mary Our Lady Church. A wide range of events celebrating both anniversaries are being organised to appeal to different age groups and churchgoers and non-church goers alike, and there are a number of ways in which people may get involved if they so wish.

For the Diocese, celebrations are under the banner of ‘Celebrating Faith', and will include:

Deanery Celebrations. Services of thanksgiving, led by one of the three bishops, will beheld in every deanery across East and West Sussex. Our deanery service will be on Wednesday 26th February.

Family Camp. A weekend of fun, worship and family time in the heart of the South Downs Friday 11th — Sunday 13th July 2025.

Youth Pilgrimages. Aimed at young people across the diocese, Bishop Ruth will lead three weekend walking pilgrimages during 2025, in which the pilgrims will be encouraged to reflect on God's word in ancient places of worship and natural beauty. The first pilgrimage in July will set out from Selsey and journey through Sidlesham .

Lent Course. For use by either groups or individuals, focusing on the essential elements of the Creed.

Bishop Martin will also be hosting an International ecumenical conference at the Palace and in September there will be a conference for all licensed clergy in the diocese in Canterbury.

'Chichester950' is the theme for the Cathedral and events will include:

Religion, Revolution & Reformation. An interactive exhibition sharing the story of the Christian faith m Sussex, revealed through people, events and objects, from 1075 to the present day;

Together in Unity. A concert on the 60th anniversary of Leonard Bernstein's Chichester Psalms (17th May), which will feature the premier of a new musical composition.

TrinityFest. A vibrant celebration bringing together different communities over food, music, and culture on the Cathedral Green on 15th June 2025. Light Show. An immersive fine art, light and sound installation taking place over October Half Term celebrating the 950 year history of the Cathedral. More information on the 2025 programme of events can be found at the celebrating faith website which will be regularly updated in the coming months.

In the meantime, it's full steam ahead for the 2024 Sidlesham Fete!

Father Chris
Dear Parishioners,

At the end of April, the church held its Annual Parochial Church Meeting (APCM) and the Annual Meeting of (AMP) Parishioners, as required by Canon law . These are two separate meetings with different agendas and potentially different attendees with different rights to vote etc. In reality it is the same group of people who attend both meetings which are held at the same time. The purpose of the APCM is to receive the annual report of the Parochial Church Council (PCC) for the previous year, which these days is now a trustees’ report, because the church is bound by the rules of the Charity Commission and consequently every member of the PCC is a trustee. Copies of the Annual Report are available on request. The APCM is also the meeting at which members of the PCC are elected, and at which the Parish Priest has the opportunity to thank people for their support and say something about the opportunities and challenges for the future (more of this at a later date).

The purpose of the AMP is to elect two churchwardens for the coming year. For the past several years this has followed the same pattern: positions available two, nominations two — congratulations Chris Field and Janet Harland! This year however there was a change: positions available two, nominations one — congratulations Chris Field!

As most of you will know by now, Janet has decided to hang up her Churchwarden’s keys, but she will very much continue to be an active member of the church and community, continuing in her roles of sacristan, music librarian and all-round good egg! The following Sunday after the Parish Eucharist, we toasted Janet’s retirement as Churchwarden, and we thanked her forher dedication and commitment for a role well done over the past l5 years. Our appreciation was reflected in a generous collection which Janet, in her typically humble way, has decided she will use to commission a green legilium fall  for use during Ordinary Time. It was my pleasure and privilege, on behalf of everyone, to present her with a lovely green brooch and specially painted watercolour of the church. Janet, in a demonstration of her gentle and droll humour, presented the church with a new sack trolley, a piece of apparatus she had found invaluable in carrying out her churchwarden duties! Meanwhile the search for a new churchwarden continues.

With my continued prayers for all the people of Sidlesham.

Father Chris

A legilium is a folding portable lectern; in St Mary’s it is used for readings ‘etc. The church has a set of legilium falls or frontals with colours to match the liturgical seasons, but currently there is no green fall.

Dear Parishioners,

Following a joyous Easter celebration, we now tum our eyes towards late spring with which comes Pentecost (in my opinion a much-undervalued church feast!) and then onto summer and the perennial Sidlesharn Fete on the last Saturday of July.

The Sidlesham Fete was really Carolyn and my first experience of Sidlesham in 2022. We were very impressed with how it brought together residents, families, and visitors fi'om the surrounding area, and the sense of community spirit and fim was palpable.

Last year we got to understand why the Fete was so successful, and that is through the hard work, dedication and contribution of the many people who help in its organisation and running, especially Chris and Janet! I would like to take this opportunity to thank Chris and Janet both personally, and on behalf of our community, for all the commitment and time they have given over the decades running the fete. It is a testament to their hardwork that the Fete has continued to grow over the years and is looked forward to by so many. This year Chris and Janet are-quite understandably handing over the organisational baton to a new small group of volunteers, who are busy planning this year's Fete.

The new team's brief is very much to continue with the long established and successful tradition of the fete with all the familiar attactions such as the Chichester Brass Band, refreshment tent, dog show, clothes boutique, book stall, plant stall,bottle tombola etcetera! During the past 12 months-several people have commented to me about the Fete and what a wonderful event it is, but how two hours-was not enough time to enjoy everything on offer, especially given all the effort that goes into the setting up and taking it down.

So, this year we are going to trial having the Fete open for slighly longer and adding the opportunity later in the afternoon for people to enjoy some gentle live music from local talented musicians, together with a range of savoury food. I am really hoping that this experiment will enhance what is already a special day, but to make this successful will require some volunteers to help with the setup, on the-day and with the dismatling. So if you can help, or know someone who may be interested in getting involved, please do be in touch. There is more information about the fete elsewhere in the Parishioner and more details will be available in the coming weeks. In the meantime, please make sure the date is in your diary!

With my best wishes for a blossom-laden springtime!

Fr Chrls
Dear Parishioners

I wonder how many of you remember Alistair Cooke's ‘A letter from America’ which was last broadcast around 20 years ago. It was a very eloquent and witty social commentary on the many facets of American life, and at over 58 years, it remains the longest running speech radio programme. I only mention this, because it was the first thing I thought of when I sat down to pen this 'letter from Mexico'. But rather than attemp tto write an erudite description of life in Puerto Vallarta — once a sleepy fishing village on the Pacific Coast of Mexico, now transformed into a vibrant and international tourist destination with an eclectic and friendly populace — I thought I would share with you, how and why I came to be here, in what would normally be the frenetic weeks leading up to Easter.

Puerto Vallarta  Wikimedia.

My eldest son, Charles, has lived in Puerto Vallarta, Mexico for around 4 years. I last visited him in January 2022 when I was in the early stages of discerning our move from Haywards Heath to Sidlesham. Charles is a very fit and an accomplished basketball player, but over the last few months, he had be experiencing an increasing pain in his neck, which was not alleviated by extensive physiotherapy treatment. An MRI scan revealed that he had a hernia in one of the discs in his upper spine which could only be treated with surgery; he subsequently had the operation, and all went to plan until after he left hospital. During his recovery there was a complication caused by some of the medicines he had been prescribed, which resulted in him being in agony and unable-to eat or drink. This continued for a few days by which time we were getting really concerned, and I investigated getting a next-day flight to Mexico. As you can imagine, I was immensely relieved-when I heard that this was not going to be necessary as a change to his medication regime began to have the desired results.

However, when I woke up the following morning, the first thought that came into my mind was that l should still go and visit him to provide some care and support. And, as it turned out,there was a cheap once a week charter flight direct to Puerto Vallarta flying out andreturning o na Monday. So,Ichecked with the bishop, booked the flight, arranged the necessary cover (for which I am very grateful to Fr Roger) and came out to Mexico, from where I am writing this letter.

My reason for mentioning this? Well for me it illustrates the importance of acting on those little subconscious prompts many of us get fiom time to time. Given my faith, my past experiences, and the similar experience of others, I can only conclude that this is the Holy Spirit at work, gently and quietly guiding often manifest in the seemingly unconnected and random coincidences, which only begin to make sense with hindsight.

It has_taken me many years to begin to comprehend this,_and any such promptings continue to be hard to perceive; it is all too easy to getcaught up in the busyness of life, and to not be able to 'hear' above all the many constant distractions. But as the great prophet Elijah found on the mountain sometimes it pays to listen for the 'still small voice'.

I wish you all a very happy and blessed Easter.

Fr Chris

P.S. We have just got back from an appointment with Charles’ surgeon who is very pleased with how his recovery is going.

Dear Parishioners

I am beginning to write this March letter on 14 February a date which, when seen written down, most people would think "Ah, Valentine's Day", it is one of those dates embedded into most people’s psyches. But this year the 14 February is also Ash Wednesday and in addition to this monthly task of writing for the Parish Magazine, I am also burning Palm crosses to make ash to daub on the foreheads of the faithful in the traditional service, which marks (if you pardon the pun) the beginning of Lent. While doing this,I was reminded of a cartoon by theologian Bill Donaghy that gives a light-hearted guide to "the different ash marks one might see out and about on Ash Wednesday, I hope that you may also find it amusing.

As I wrote in my letter this time last year, Lent is a time of transformation; I came across the following poem the other day, which I think echoes that sentiment perfectly.

In the hush of Lent, where shadows quietly unfold,
A sacred journey starts, a story to be told.
The winters grasp is fading, as a thawing spirit sings,
In the intertwining dance of Lent and burgeoning Spring.
In fasting's gentle rhythm and contemplative prayer,
A soul sheds winter's burdens, breathes the vernal air.
The barren trees are witnesses to a solemn, humble grace,
As the heart prepares a garden in this sacred, quiet space.

A penitential canvas painted in hues of purple and ash,
Yet beneath the surface, a burgeoning, quiet clash.
For Lent, a solemn journey, and Spring, a whispered hymn,
Together birth a resurrection, new life to begin.

The buds upon the branches, a promise in the air,
Resurrection whispers, banishing despair.
The earth, once cold and hardened, now softens 'neath the rain,
As Lent and together proclaim, "Behold, all things made new again."

In Lenten contemplation, we till the soil within,
Removing stones of bitterness, cultivating love therein.
As petals unfurl slowly, under the sun's warm gleam,
So do we uncover the me beauty of a soul redeemed.

With each step through the desert, each footprint in the dew,
Lent and Spring converge, revealing life anew.
The forty days of fasting, mirrored in the seed,
A promise of resurrection, where brokenness is freed.

So, let the Lenten desert and the Spring light winds blend,
A symphony of hope, where soul and earth transcend.
For in this sacred season, where shadows gently part,
We find the grace of Easter, a resurrection in the heart.

I wish you all a holy and transformative Lent.

Fr Chris

Dear Parishioners,

As you may be aware, my position as Priest in Charge at St Mary Our Lady is part-time, as indeed has been the case with my immediate predecessors here. The other day someone asked me what I did with the rest of my time, and I explained that I was National Missioner to a group of around 100 Anglo- Catholic parishes across the country. To which they responded, 'and what does that mean?'; I thought this wasa very good question and I thought I would share with you what I do for the rest of myweek, when I am not working in the parish.

The first thing to say is that ‘National Missioner‘ is too grand a title, and actually a bit of a misnomer, my role is probably better described as Mission Enabler or Coordinator, providing resources and support to enable churches to undertake mission and outreach projects in their communities. Practically speaking, my work has involved helping to manage a project aimed at moving a number of parishes ‘from maintenance to mission‘ (an expression used by the Divine Renovation organisation, on whose methodology the project is largely based) coordinating the activities of 10 regional convenors who each work with around 10 parish Priests, I have designed, created and manage an online Mission Resource Hub, which gives access to a range of various diffierent resources for mission, outreach and evangelism. The most. intense part of my role has been the organisation of an annual 3-day conference in November for around 80 priests, bishops and deacons. The work I undertake in the missioner role is directed by Bishop Will (the Bishop of Lewes), which means that I inevitably also get involved with projects within the Chichester Diocese, such as organising the annual Our Lady of Walsingham Festival. I am currently helping to set up the first diocesan Family Camp — a weekend of fun, worship and family time in June this year — taking place in the beautiful South Downs; and the planning of the 2025 year of faith when the diocese will celebrate the 1700 anniversary of the Nicene Creed and the 950th anniversary of Chichester Cathedral.

When I became a priest, I thought I had started an completely new chapter of my life and Christian journey and had loft my previous long career and experience in marketing and connnuriications behind me, but it would appear that God has other ideas. Alongside my priestly ministry, I am now making comprehensive use of the Skills and experience gained in secular employment to serve God's church and further His Kingdom. One thing is for sure, I am never bored or lacking in something to do!

Fr Chris

There is a good chance that as you read this, it will still be Christmas. You may have finished off the leftover turkey and last of the Quality Street (except may be the blue ones — no one likes those!) and the shops will have taken all down all their Christmas displays (which have been up since October) they may even be selling Cadbury’s Creme eggs, but for the church at least, it is still Christmas. And why not? It is such an important feast for Christians, when God chose to come among us as a fragile, helpless baby who would grow into a man, go about teaching in Judea before being crucified and then rising from the dead. But why? Why was it necessary for God to become incarnate, to be born as one of us? When the question was first posed to me, I struggled to answer it convincingly. There are of co1n'se well-honed theological and doctrinal answers to be found in books and in the teaching of the Church, but what helped me was a simple story — a modern day parable — written in 1959 by Louis Cassells, who was the religious editor at United Press International. I shared it at Midnight mass, but I thought it deserved a wider audience, so I am sharing it here.

Cassells’' story is centred on a man, who he describes as ‘not a scrooge’ but a kind, decent, mostly good man, who was generous to his family and upright in his dealings with other men. But the man just didn’t believe all the stuff about God becoming a man — the incarnation. It just didn’t make sense to him, and he was too honest to pretend that he did.

"I am truly sorry to distress you,"he told his wife, who was a faithful churchgoer. "But I simply cannot understand this claim that God becomes man. It doesn’t make any sense to me."On Christmas Eve his wife and children went to church for the midnight service. And once again, he declined to accompany them. "I’d feel like a hypocrite,"he explained. "I’d rather stay at home. But I’ll wait up for you."Shortly afler his family drove away in the car, snow began to fall. He went to the window and watched the flurries getting heavier and heavier. "If we must have Christmas,"he thought, "it’s nice to have a white one."He went back to his chair by the fireside and began to read his newspaper. A few minutes later he was startled by a thudding sound. It was quickly followed by another, then another. He thought that someone must be throwing snowballs at his window. When he went to the front door to investigate, he found a flock of birds huddled miserably in the storm. They had been caught in the storm and in a desperate search for shelter had tried to fly through his window. "I can’t let these poor creatures lie there and freeze,"he thought. "But how can I help them?"Then he remembered the barn, where the children’s pony was stabled. That would provide a warm shelter, if he could direct the birds to it. He put on his coat and Wellies and tramped through the deepening snow to the barn. He opened the door wide and turned on a light. But the birds didn’t come in. "Food will lure them in,"he thought. So, he hurried back to the house for breadcrumbs, which he sprinkled on the snow to make a trail into the bam. To his dismay, the birds ignored the breadcrumbs, and continued to flop around helplessly in the snow. He tried shooing them into the barn by walking around and waving his arms. They scattered in every direction - except into the wann lighted barn. “They fmd me a strange and terrifying creature,"he said to himself, “and I can’t seem to think of any way to let them know they can trust me. If only I could be a bird myself for a few minutes, perhaps I could lead them to safety..."Just at that moment the church bells began to ring. He stood silent for a while, listening to the bells pealing the glad tidings of Christmas. Then he sank to his knees in the snow. “Now I understand,"he whispered. “Now I see why You had to do it.”

I hope you are enjoying a blessed and peaceful Christmas, and I wish you all a joyful and hope-filled New Year.

Fr Chris