Dear Friends
4th July is, of course, Independence Day in the USA and my diary (one especially for the use of priests) recommends a service of Holy Communion with the special intention of praying for justice and peace on that day. Of course, at this time of continuing Covid-related restrictions, it is still not possible to hold such a service, but we can at least pray for justice and peace — for the world and especially for the USA which is currently undergoing yet another ‘long hot summer’ of racial unrest, something which, sadly, seems endemic there.
Ever since the struggle for racial equality in the early 1960s, largely led by Martin Luther King, student riots, sit-ins and marches, and violent police crack- downs there have featured in news bulletins. And what happens in the States is quite often reflected subsequently in our own country. The ‘Black Lives Matter’ campaign has once again brought to our attention that issues of systemic racial inequality still need to addressed here in the UK, as well as in other parts of the world.
A photograph in my latest copy of The Church Times depicts a demonstration in Birmingham. A young white woman is holding up a home-made cardboard placard with the slogan, ‘I shouldn’t have to protest this. Enough is enough’, written on it. I remember similar demonstrations when I was at College — it seems that every generation in recent times has tried to ‘make a difference’ by exposing the evils of exploitation, slavery and discrimination, but progress continues to be slow. '
I notice also, in the same photograph, that all the participants are wearing face- masks — no doubt in years to come archives of ‘the summer of Covid-19’ will record this particular phenomenon, Fortunately, there are straws in the wind that lockdown is gradually easing, although whether things will ever return to the previous status quo is perhaps debatable. But at least we can now open up our churches and places of worship for private prayer, and here at Sidlesham St Mary’s will, thankfully, be opened up once more for this purpose, although please do adhere to the social distancing and hygiene guidelines as indicated in the notices on the doors.
As I write, it is still unclear when and in what form services may resume but we might, all being well, perhaps look forward at least to a special service for All Souls’ Day when we can remember those who have lost their lives, as well as give thanks for the exceptional service rendered to so many by NHS staff and other frontline workers.
Stephen
THOUGHT FOR THE WEEK’ FROM THE REVEREND STEPHEN GUISE, PRIEST IN CHARGE – THIRD SUNDAY AFTER TRINITY, 28 JUNE


16th-century Russian icon of The Nativity of John the Baptist, Hermitage Museum


This Sunday, the third after Trinity, falls just after the Feast of the Nativity of St John the Baptist, which is celebrated by the Church on 24 June. Throughout the Gospels, we have indications of the way in which people at the time speculated about the respective roles and ministries of John the Baptist and Jesus – not least in the Gospel passage (Matthew 11:16-19 and 25-end) which is due to be read next Sunday, the fourth after Trinity. In that passage, Jesus shows that he is aware of the way in which he was being compared to his cousin, and, of course, many of the comments and criticisms were misplaced. Just as today anyone who puts his or her head above the parapet is likely to be misunderstood, either wilfully or through ignorance, so John the Baptist was accused of being possessed by demons because of his ascetic lifestyle, whereas Jesus was assumed to be a ‘glutton and drunkard’ because he was prepared to enjoy a meal with both ‘friends and sinners’ alike! You can’t win!

The Gospel ends, however, with words of comfort and reassurance, as Jesus exclaims that the mysteries of the Kingdom are being revealed to ‘little children’ – i.e. those who trust that God’s purposes are being worked out in the person of Jesus himself - who are contrasted with the ‘learned and the clever’ – i.e. the Jewish religious leaders who were rejecting all God’s advances, whether made through the stern penance of John or through the courtesy of Jesus. For those who accept the gentle mastery of Jesus, there is the great promise that he will give them rest: ‘Come to me all you who labour and are overburdened and I will give you rest. Shoulder my yoke and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart and you will find rest for your souls. Yes, my yoke is easy and my burden light.’ The original context of this saying is probably to be found in ideas associated with the burden of the Law and the additional Pharisaic observances – the ‘yoke of the Law’ was a familiar metaphor in use at the time – but Jesus’ words have continued to resonate through the centuries as his followers find that he offers us rest and hope, and a place where we can lay down our burdens, whatever they may be.

Fr. Stephen



Almighty God,
you have broken the tyranny of sin
and have sent the Spirit of your Son into our hearts
whereby we call you Father:
give us grace to dedicate our freedom to your service,
that we and all creation may be brought
to the glorious liberty of the children of God;
through Jesus Christ your Son our Lord,
who is alive and reigns with you,
in the unity of the Holy Spirit,
one God, now and for ever.
Amen.


Acts 12.1-11 (Click for audio)

A reading from the Acts of the Apostles.

About that time

King Herod laid violent hands upon some who belonged to the church.

He had James, the brother of John, killed with the sword.

After he saw that it pleased the Jews,
he proceeded to arrest Peter also.
(This was during the festival of Unleavened Bread.)

When he had seized him, he put him in prison
and handed him over to four squads of soldiers to guard him,
intending to bring him out to the people after the Passover.

While Peter was kept in prison,
the church prayed fervently to God for him.

The very night before Herod was going to bring him out,
Peter, bound with two chains, was sleeping between two soldiers,
while guards in front of the door were keeping watch
over the prison.

Suddenly an angel of the Lord appeared
and a light shone in the cell.
He tapped Peter on the side and woke him,
saying, "Get up quickly."
And the chains fell off his wrists.

The angel said to him,
"Fasten your belt and put on your sandals."
He did so. Then he said to him,
"Wrap your cloak around you and follow me."

Peter went out and followed him;
he did not realise
that what was happening with the angel's help was real;
he thought he was seeing a vision.

After they had passed the first and the second guard,
they came before the iron gate leading into the city.
It opened for them of its own accord,
and they went outside and walked along a lane,
when suddenly the angel left him.

Then Peter came to himself and said,
"Now I am sure that the Lord has sent his angel
and rescued me from the hands of Herod
and from all that the Jewish people were expecting."


Gospel Matthew 16.13-19 (Click for audio)

Hear the gospel of our Lord Jesus Chris according to Matthew.

When Jesus came into the district of Caesarea Philippi,
he asked his disciples,
"Who do people say that the Son of Man is?"

And they said, "Some say John the Baptist,
but others Elijah,
and still others Jeremiah or one of the prophets."

He said to them, "But who do you say that I am?"

Simon Peter answered,
"You are the Messiah, the Son of the living God."

And Jesus answered him,
"Blessed are you, Simon son of Jonah!
For flesh and blood has not revealed this to you,
but my Father in heaven.

And I tell you, you are Peter,
and on this rock I will build my church,
and the gates of Hades will not prevail against it.

I will give you the keys of the kingdom of heaven,
and whatever you bind on earth will be bound in heaven,
and whatever you loose on earth will be loosed in heaven."



‘THOUGHT FOR THE WEEK’ FROM THE REVEREND STEPHEN GUISE, PRIEST IN CHARGE – SECOND SUNDAY AFTER TRINITY, 21 JUNE



Michelangelo, ‘The Prophet Jeremiah’, Fresco, The Sistine Chapel, 1512

Dear Friends (Click for audio)

If my calculations are correct, under normal conditions we would be having Mattins at our 10.00am service this coming Sunday morning, in which case the first reading would be from the Old Testament (or, to be politically correct, the ‘Hebrew Scriptures’).  We would therefore be hearing the passage from Jeremiah 28:5-9, in which the prophet addresses the assembled company, who are still in the city of Jerusalem (ie the ‘remnant’ who had not been exiled to Babylon), and expresses the hope that all the vessels of the house of the Lord, taken by their captors to Babylon, would one day be returned to their proper place.  The libretto of William Walton’s Belshazzar’s Feast graphically describes their desecration at the hands of the Babylonian ruler.

Although we have not been physically uprooted like the Israelites in Jeremiah’s day, we may currently be feeling deprived and exiled from our usual worship in church, where we would expect to be fed by the sacrament of Holy Communion from our customary vessels, which for the duration lie unused in the vestry safe.  The need to worship together in this way is integral to the Christian life, and, of course, we feel this ‘exile’ more keenly when it is enforced upon us, even when this is for the best of reasons.

I believe, however, that when we are once more allowed to conduct public worship in our cherished church here at St Mary’s we shall appreciate it all the more.  It’s the sort of response that pundits describe as ‘visceral’, ie not so much an intellectual appreciation but rather a ‘gut feeling’ which resonates with our deepest needs.

It is my hope and prayer that when, eventually, this time comes to an end, we shall be able to look back and see our present deprivation for what it is – a deep-seated need for the sacraments which feed not only our minds (sometimes we can intellectualize too much) but also our ‘inward parts’ and hearts, where the most profound feelings of love and compassion reside.

Fr Stephen


Collect for the Second Sunday after Trinity (Click for audio)
Lord, you have taught us
that all our doings without love are nothing worth:
send your Holy Spirit
and pour into our hearts that most excellent gift of love,
the true bond of peace and of all virtues,
without which whoever lives is counted dead before you.
Grant this for your only Son Jesus Christ’s sake,
who is alive and reigns with you,
in the unity of the Holy Spirit,
one God, now and for ever.  Amen.


Romans 6.1b-11 (Click for audio)

A reading from the letter of Paul to the Romans.

Should we continue in sin in order that grace may abound?

By no means!
How can we who died to sin go on living in it?

Do you not know
that all of us who have been baptized into Christ Jesus
were baptized into his death?

Therefore we have been buried with him by baptism into death,
so that, just as Christ was raised from the dead
by the glory of the Father,
so we too might walk in newness of life.

For if we have been united with him in a death like his,
we will certainly be united with him in a resurrection like his.

We know that our old self was crucified with him
so that the body of sin might be destroyed,
and we might no longer be enslaved to sin.

For whoever has died is freed from sin.

But if we have died with Christ,
we believe that we will also live with him.

We know that Christ, being raised from the dead,
will never die again;
death no longer has dominion over him.

The death he died, he died to sin, once for all;
but the life he lives, he lives to God.

So you also must consider yourselves dead to sin
and alive to God in Christ Jesus.


Gospel Matthew 10.24-39 (Click for audio)

Hear the gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ according to Matthew.

Jesus summoned the twelve
and sent them out with the following instructions;


"A disciple is not above the teacher,
nor a slave above the master;

it is enough for the disciple to be like the teacher,
and the slave like the master.
If they have called the master of the house Beelzebul,
how much more will they malign those of his household!

"So have no fear of them;
for nothing is covered up that will not be uncovered,
and nothing secret that will not become known.

What I say to you in the dark, tell in the light;
and what you hear whispered, proclaim from the housetops.

Do not fear those who kill the body
but cannot kill the soul;
rather fear him who can destroy both soul and body in hell.

Are not two sparrows sold for a penny?
Yet not one of them will fall to the ground
unperceived by your Father.

And even the hairs of your head are all counted.

So do not be afraid;
you are of more value than many sparrows.

"Everyone therefore who acknowledges me before others,
I also will acknowledge before my Father in heaven;

but whoever denies me before others,
I also will deny before my Father in heaven.

"Do not think that I have come to bring peace to the earth;
I have not come to bring peace, but a sword.

For I have come to set a man against his father,
and a daughter against her mother,
and a daughter-in-law against her mother-in-law;

and one's foes will be members of one's own household.

Whoever loves father or mother more than me
is not worthy of me;
and whoever loves son or daughter more than me
is not worthy of me;

and whoever does not take up the cross and follow me
is not worthy of me.

Those who find their life will lose it,
 and those who lose their life for my sake will find it.


‘THOUGHT FOR THE WEEK’ FROM THE REVEREND STEPHEN GUISE, PRIEST IN CHARGE – FIRST SUNDAY AFTER TRINITY, 14 JUNE




Holman Hunt, ‘A Converted British Family Sheltering a Christian Missionary from the Persecution of the Druids’,
1850, Ashmolean Museum, Oxford

Dear Friends (Click for audio)

The Gospel reading (Matthew 9:35-10:8) for this, the first Sunday after Trinity, includes Jesus’ exhortation to the twelve to ‘proclaim that the kingdom of Heaven is close at hand.’  And on Monday week, 22 June, we shall be remembering St Alban, the first martyr of Britain, who found that the kingdom of Heaven was close at hand in the person of a Christian priest who was fleeing during a time when the Church was still subject to sporadic persecutions.  Alban himself was a pagan, a Romano-British soldier, who lived near Verulamium.  During the persecution of Septimus Severus he offered shelter to a Christian priest, and was deeply impressed by the holy man’s faithfulness in spending all his time in prayer and vigils.  Touched by the grace of God, Alban was moved to follow the priest’s example and began to emulate his faith and devotion.  In the course of time, he became imbued with the priest’s salutary teaching and himself wholeheartedly professed the Christian faith.  Meanwhile, however, word had got out that Alban was sheltering a Christian and when the soldiers arrived to search the house, Alban dressed himself in the priest’s clothes and gave himself up in the place of his guest and teacher.

The judge appointed to hear the case was incensed that Alban should have surrendered himself in place of his guest, and, when he refused to offer sacrifice to idols, ordered him to be scourged, in the hope that his new-found faith and constancy could be shaken by torture.  But Alban bore all his severe torments with joyful patience for the sake of Christ.  When the judge saw that no torture could break him, or induce him to repudiate his faith, he ordered him to be beheaded.  Alban was martyred on 22 June 205 near the city of Verulamium.  Once more peaceful times were restored, a fine church, worthy of his martyrdom, was built in the city which we now call St Alban’s.

The Venerable Bede includes this account of the life of St Alban within his Ecclesiastical History of the English Nation.  It serves perhaps as a salutary reminder of the adage of another saint, Francis, who is commemorated later in the liturgical cycle: ‘Preach the gospel; use words if necessary’.

Fr Stephen


Collect for St Alban (Click for audio)

Almighty God, who at the beginning of the conversion of Britain,
gloriously confirmed the faith of Alban by giving him a martyr’s crown:
in your mercy grant that, following his example in the fellowship of the saints,
we may worship and adore the true and living God
and be faithful witnesses to the same Jesus Christ our Lord.  Amen.


Roman 5.1-8 (Click for audio)

A reading from the letter of Paul to the Romans.

Since we are justified by faith,
we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ,

through whom we have obtained access to this grace in which we stand;
and we boast in our hope of sharing the glory of God.

And not only that,
but we also boast in our sufferings,
knowing that suffering produces endurance,

and endurance produces character,
and character produces hope,

and hope does not disappoint us,
 because God's love has been poured into our hearts
through the Holy Spirit that has been given to us.

For while we were still weak,
at the right time Christ died for the ungodly.

Indeed, rarely will anyone die for a righteous person—
though perhaps for a good person
someone might actually dare to die.

But God proves his love for us
in that while we still were sinners Christ died for us.


Gospel Matthew 9.35-10.23 (Click for audio)

Hear the gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ according to Matthew.

Then Jesus went about all the cities and villages,
teaching in their synagogues,
and proclaiming the good news of the kingdom,
and curing every disease and every sickness.

When he saw the crowds, he had compassion for them,
because they were harassed and helpless,
like sheep without a shepherd.

Then he said to his disciples,
 "The harvest is plentiful, but the labourers are few;

therefore ask the Lord of the harvest
to send out labourers into his harvest."

 hen Jesus summoned his twelve disciples
and gave them authority over unclean spirits,
to cast them out,
and to cure every disease and every sickness.

These are the names of the twelve apostles:
first, Simon, also known as Peter, and his brother Andrew;
James son of Zebedee, and his brother John;

Philip and Bartholomew;
Thomas and Matthew the tax collector;
James son of Alphaeus, and Thaddaeus;

Simon the Cananaean, and Judas Iscariot, t
he one who betrayed him.

These twelve Jesus sent out with the following instructions:
"Go nowhere among the Gentiles,
and enter no town of the Samaritans,

but go rather to the lost sheep of the house of Israel.

As you go, proclaim the good news,
"The kingdom of heaven has come near.'

Cure the sick, raise the dead,
cleanse the lepers, cast out demons.
You received without payment;
give without payment.
1 Corinthians 11.23-26

A reading from the first letter of St Paul to the Corinthians.

 For I received from the Lord what I also handed on to you,
that the Lord Jesus on the night when he was betrayed took a loaf of bread,

and when he had given thanks, he broke it and said,
"This is my body that is for you.
Do this in remembrance of me."

In the same way he took the cup also, after supper, saying,
"This cup is the new covenant in my blood.
Do this, as often as you drink it, in remembrance of me."

For as often as you eat this bread and drink the cup,
you proclaim the Lord's death until he comes.


Gospel. John 6.51-58

Hear the gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ according to John.

Jesus said to the Jews;

I am the living bread that came down from heaven.
Whoever eats of this bread will live forever;
and the bread that I will give for the life of the world is my flesh."

The Jews then disputed among themselves, saying,
"How can this man give us his flesh to eat?"

So Jesus said to them, "Very truly, I tell you,
unless you eat the flesh of the Son of Man and drink his blood,
you have no life in you.

Those who eat my flesh and drink my blood abide in me,
and I will raise them up on the last day;

for my flesh is true food and my blood is true drink.

Those who eat my flesh and drink my blood abide in me,
and I in them.

Just as the living Father sent me,
and I live because of the Father,
so whoever eats me will live because of me.

This is the bread that came down from heaven,
not like that which your ancestors ate, and they died.
But the one who eats this bread will live forever."
‘THOUGHT FOR THE WEEK’ FROM THE REVEREND STEPHEN GUISE, PRIEST IN CHARGE – TRINITY SUNDAY, 7 JUNE, AND FEAST OF CORPUS CHRISTI, 11 JUNE


Jules Breton (1827-1906)
Study for ‘The Blessing of the Wheat’ (Corpus Christi Procession), 1857, Private Collection

Dear Friends (Click for audio)

This week, I’ve decided to consider two of the major feasts of the Church together – Trinity Sunday (for which the readings are 2 Corinthians 13:11-end and Matthew 28:16-20) and the Day of Thanksgiving for the Institution of Holy Communion, or Corpus Christi, which always falls on the following Thursday (and for which the readings are 1 Corinthians 11:23-26 and John 6:51-58).

As often mentioned, although the doctrine of the Holy Trinity is so central to Christian life and worship, you will not find the word ‘Trinity’ itself in either the Hebrew Scriptures or the New Testament!  An understanding of the Trinity is, of course, implicit in many Scriptural passages, including the one often described as ‘the Great Commission’, which occurs towards the end of St Matthew’s Gospel, and in which the Risen Lord commands his disciples to ‘make disciples of all nations’, and to ‘baptize them in the name of the Father, and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit’.  It is accompanied by the great promise to the eleven disciples, and to all those who were to come afterwards, that Jesus is with us always, ‘yes, to the end of time’.

The formula ‘in the name of the Father, and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit’ probably reflects liturgical usage within the early Christian community which was known to Matthew – and it was only subsequently, as a response to the Arian controversies of the third and fourth centuries, that the ‘Niceno-Constantinopolitan’ creed (more familiar to us as simply the ‘Nicene creed’) explicitly articulated the understanding of the Church that all three Persons of the Holy Trinity are fully divine and, mysteriously, are both Three and yet also One.

The doctrinal debates which preceded (and followed!) the development of this creed can seem obscure, complex and even, perhaps, somewhat irrelevant to the average ‘churchgoer in the pew’ – but they were essential, since they secured the understanding that all Christian worship is Trinitarian, and that through our prayers and praises, and participation in the sacraments, we also participate, in so far as we are able, in the divine life itself, becoming, as 2 Peter 1:4 puts it, ‘partakers of the divine nature’.

And this leads us on, of course, to participation in the Eucharist, which has not been possible for us as a community of faith for many long weeks now.  I’m sure that many of you are feeling the deprivation keenly.  I did mention, in an earlier ‘thought for the week’, the prayer which can be said by way of spiritual communion, and you may wish to use this again during this week, when, in the normal course of things, we would be giving particular thanks for the institution of the Eucharist.  We hope that it will not be too long before we may once again resume this central act of worship but, in the meantime, we can at least give thanks, as the Great Commission puts it, that Jesus is with us always, whatever our circumstances, and ‘even to the end of time’.
Fr Stephen


Collect for Trinity Sunday (Click for audio)

Almighty and everlasting God,
you have given us your servants grace,
by the confession of a true faith,
to acknowledge the glory of the eternal Trinity
and in the power of the divine majesty to worship the Unity:
keep us steadfast in this faith,
that we may evermore be defended from all adversities;
through Jesus Christ your Son our Lord,
who is alive and reigns with you,
in the unity of the Holy Spirit,
one God now and for ever.
Amen.



A reading from the second letter of Paul to the Corinthians.

Brothers and sisters, 
put things in order, listen to my appeal, 
agree with one another, 
live in peace; 
and the God of love and peace will be with you. 

Greet one another with a holy kiss. 
All the saints greet you. 

The grace of the Lord Jesus Christ, 
the love of God, 
and the communion of the Holy Spirit 
be with all of you. 



Hear the gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ according to Matthew.

The eleven disciples went to Galilee, 
to the mountain to which Jesus had directed them. 

When they saw him, they worshipped him; 
but some doubted. 

And Jesus came and said to them, 
"All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. 

Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, 
baptizing them in the name of the Father 
and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, 

and teaching them to obey everything that I have commanded you. 
And remember, I am with you always, 
to the end of the age." 
Dear Friends

I write this just one day after the curtailed national celebrations of the 75"‘ anniversary of VE Day, which commemorated the end of the Second World War in Europe. I was thinking about this as I was gazing up to the Union Jack Which I had hoisted up the flagpole on the church tower, and which looked particularly vibrant, the red, white and blue set against a lovely deep blue sky, as, for a few days, the fine weather we have been enjoying in recent weeks continued.

What also continues currently, of course, is the lockdown, which, in a different way, recalls, for those of us old enough to remember, something of the privations and restrictions of war. Being born not long after the Second World War, I remember how rationing, too, continued for a few years, as did National Service. I recall my cousins being called up for their National Service, and one of them enjoyed his first weeks as a serviceman so much that he signed up as a regular - but then instantly regretted it! Nevertheless, he used to pass down to me and my brother his worn-out tunics, since we used to play soldiers in the back garden. The shadow of the War dominated much of life in the 1950s, and even into the early 1960s - and many films of that period seemed to have a wartime theme. Certainly, at school, for many years, friends and playmates would ask, ‘What did your Dad do in the War?’ Fortunately, in our case, we were able to recount. in all honesty, our father’s exploits during many of the most challenging of the campaigns.

The house we lived in at the time suffered slightly from bomb damage as its front and rear doors had been taken out by a bomb blast. and the house opposite had taken a direct hit. We used to play in the crater that was let ~ meanwhile, ‘prefabs’ were being put together all around. They were meant to last for only ten years, but were still standing twenty years later (as the saying goes, ‘There is nothing so permanent as a temporary structure’ ! ).

It all now seems, of course, a very long time ago, but VE Day remains, quite properly, as a day of thanksgiving and rejoicing that God spared our country from obliteration. It was good to see recently footage (including some in colour) of the celebrations which took place all those years ago around the country — apart from their outfits, people looked very much the same as we do today, and behaved, no doubt, similarly to ourselves when in celebratory mode!

I have also read recently that, as well as accessing online church services, people have been praying more during the lockdown — I don’t know how the experts in statistics gather such information, but it emphasizes the point that when we human beings are under threat, we are more receptive to the spiritual and religious dimensions of our lives. This is something Her Majesty the Queen has indicated during her addresses to the nation, and we thank God for her unflagging Christian witness, and for her prayers, to which we add our own.

Stephen