Denise Inge: Rise in Glory!

As I pray this morning in our bedroom overlooking the lovely garden in Ely, I am remembering and giving thanks for the life of Denise Inge who, with John and the girls, lived here before us, and whose love still shows in the trees and plants I can see. As many of you will know she had been fighting illness for some time. Still full of life, her death came suddenly on Easter Day: even in the darkness speaking so appropriately of resurrection. May she rest in peace and rise in glory.

+John writes:

Dear friends and family,

My most beloved Denise died at 3pm today. The end was mercifully quick: she was up and about laughing and joking, welcoming friends and making bolognaise sauce yesterday. Her condition deteriorated rapidly during the night.

It was a good death at the conclusion of a good life. Her mother and her sister had flown in from America early on Good Friday morning. It was such a blessing that they were here at the end and that the girls were home, too. The Dean brought her communion and anointed her this morning – and she was keen for us all to sing hymns of Christ’s victory over death. She was full of faith right to the end.

It’s appropriate that the Lord should have taken her to himself on Easter Day, the day of resurrection. She believed in that resurrection fervently – though she did not want to die because she wanted to be here to care for her precious girls. (She also wanted, she said this morning, to write another book which was less about herself and more about God.)

May the risen Lord Jesus, whom she served so faithfully, welcome her into his loving arms and lead her to our gracious God and Father. May she rest in peace and rise in glory.

I shall be in touch about funeral arrangements when I know them but, in the meantime, I would be very grateful for your prayers for me and the girls, for comfort, grace, strength and hope in our terrible loss.

With my love,

John

Dr John Inge

Bishop of Worcester

Bacon Butties and Bucks Fizz for Breakfast – beat that!

IMG_4192A 'The light shines in the darkness'

Early on the first day of the week, while it was still dark …

St Bartholomew’s Church, Groton beat today’s rain when holding an open-air sunrise service at 5.30 am on the war memorial triangle to celebrate Christ’s resurrection, followed by a breakfast of bacon butties and bucks fizz in the church. Twenty-six people attended, mostly from across the Box River Benefice but including one person who cycled from Layham and a couple from New Zealand staying with one  of our Boxford residents: Greg is a Baptist minister in NZ and read the gospel.  We ended the service with the lusty, unaccompanied, singing of “Thine be the glory, risen conqu’ring Son.”

IMG_4179A Easter Sunrise Communion 20.4.2014 5.58 am BST

It was too windy to keep a candle alight outside, but we lit the Centenary Candle in church during breakfast.

A great start to Easter Day.

From David Lamming

Blessing Breakfast

An episcopal frst. A lovely Latvian family asked me to bless their Easter breakfast at the service at St Edmundsbury Cathedral this morning! Once I’d worked out what they meant it was great fun and something we could do more of here. I wonder if my Polish ancestors did the same? (I have a feeling they may have been Jewish then though, only converting when they came to London.)

Święconka

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

Food blessing in the 19th century

Święconka (Polish pronunciation: [ɕvʲɛnˈtsɔnka]), meaning “the blessing of the Easter baskets,” is one of the most enduring and beloved Polish traditions on Holy Saturday. With roots dating back to the early history of Poland, it is also observed by expatriate and their descendants Poles in the U.S., Canada, the UK, and other Polish Parish communities.

Origins

The tradition of food blessing at Easter, which has early-medieval roots in Christian society, possibly originated from a pagan ritual.[1][2] The tradition is said to date from the 7th century in its basic form, the more modern form containing bread and eggs (symbols of resurrection and Christ) are said to datefrom the 12th century.[3]

Modern times

A typical “Święconka” basket of Polish Holy Saturday tradition

Baskets containing a sampling of Easter foods are brought to church to be blessed on Holy Saturday. The basket is traditionally lined with a white linen or lace napkin and decorated with sprigs of boxwood (bukszpan), the typical Easter evergreen. Poles take special pride in preparing a decorative and tasteful basket with crisp linens, occasionally embroidered for the occasion, and boxwood and ribbon woven through the handle. Observing the creativity of other parishioners is one of the special joys of the event.

While in some older or rural communities, the priest visits the home to bless the foods, the vast majority of Poles and Polish Americans visit the church on Holy Saturday, praying at the Tomb of the Lord (the fourteenth and final Station of the Cross). The Blessing of the Food is, however, a festive occasion. The three-part blessing prayers specifically address the various contents of the baskets, with special prayers for the meats, eggs, cakes and breads. The priest or deacon then sprinkles the individual baskets with holy water.[4]

Modern ceremony in Poland

More traditional Polish churches use a straw brush for aspersing the water; others use the more modern metal holy water sprinkling wand. In some parishes, the baskets are lined up on long tables; in others, parishioners process to the front of the altar carrying their baskets, as if in a Communion line. Older generations of Polish Americans, descended from early 19th century immigrants, tend to bless whole meal quantities, often brought to church halls or cafeterias in large hampers and picnic baskets.

The foods in the baskets have a symbolic meaning:

  • eggs – symbolise life and Christ’s resurrection
  • bread – symbolic of Jesus
  • lamb – represents Christ
  • salt – represents purification
  • horseradish – symbolic of the bitter sacrifice of Christ
  • ham – symbolic of great joy and abundance.

The food blessed in the church remains untouched according to local traditions until either Saturday afternoon or Sunday morning.

Everything’s Changed! Let the Celebrations Begin! A sermon for Easter Day

On that first Easter Day everything changed. It was their equivalent of Monday morning, the first day of the working week. Back to business as usual. Not. It wasn’t just the earth that cracked open, though it did, as an earthquake struck. It wasn’t just the heavens that cracked open, though they did, as an angel came down. It was time-space itself, the very fabric and logic of the cosmos that cracked open, as creation began again, Creation Two, the beginning of the beginning of the new heaven and the new earth that is God’s good future for the world he loves.

Whatever happened that morning – and something staggering clearly happened or the effect on the followers of Jesus wouldn’t have been so electrifying, and frankly we wouldn’t be here now – whatever it was, it clearly broke the canons of ordinary scientific enquiry. We can hardly repeat the experiment, or classify something that was once, once only and once for all. It’s not to be dissected or up for discussion. Either we shrug our shoulders, and get on with business as usual – and are immeasurably the poorer for it. Or we are stopped in our tracks, and our own life is cracked open too – and who knows what might happen then?

So what did happen, that first Easter Day? The guards froze with fear. Forget the feathery wings and tinsel halos. That seems to be the standard effect angels have on people. Just look how many times their first words to humans are, “Fear not.” I said fear.That in fact is what they say to the women, who are far quicker to wake up to what’s going than the men. Nothing new there. A moment of “Come and see” follows – the eye-witness account is going to be important especially (sorry girls) since women were not considered verb trustworthy at the time. But “Go” follows “Come” very quickly indeed. “Go quickly” in fact. Jesus has broken out of the tomb and is going ahead of them, and their job is to not to catch hold, but to catch on and catch up.

And in case you hadn’t caught on, the whole point of Easter is that it’s an empty tomb. Not much  use standing and staring. The action has moved on.

That starts to cast what we are doing today in church in a very particular way. This if you like is Jerusalem. We’ve made our pilgrimage here, just as a party from the diocese has recently made its pilgrimage to the real Jerusalem. And we like they are changed by what we see. The setting has an effect. The stones of Bethlehem or Calvary still resonate. But even more affecting is the glimpse of the Christ who has just gone ahead of us, his presence still felt, but out of our grasp lest we enshrine him in the sepulchre, a relic not a raising agent, our history not our future.

So if we want to catch on, catch up, catch a slice of the action, it’s to Galilee we must go. And our Galilees are there waiting for us, in our homes, our workplaces, our communities, our sports centres, our food banks, our council chambers. That’s where Christ says he’ll meet us. Church is not our end but our beginning, and the validity of our prayers will be tested by the places to which they take us.

In Suffolk that means lots of things. For people living at Thorndon,near Eye, it is using their new kitchen and toilet to run a community cafe for the whole village. For the people at Badingham, near Framlingham, it is helping provide a playgroup. For people of St Matthew’s in Ipswich it is running a community shop with good second hand clothing, and a laundrette. It’s foodbanks and credit unions, night-shelters and street-pastors, parish nurses and women’s counselling, and so much more I could mention.

So pause now and call those places to mind. Picture Christ there if you can. Pray for the people that he is already with there. Ponder how you can join in with what he wants to do for them. For the God of our pilgrimage calls us in this centenary year as always to be a church without walls, to be with him on the way, to build not just a congregation but a kingdom. Amen. Alleluia, and let the celebrations begin.

Good Scary: a Sermon for Easter Eve

From the moment the Easter candle is lit, it is giving itself way to give light and life to others. That’s what following Jesus is all about. It’s scary.

But do not be afraid! Had you noticed that whenever God or an angel speaks in the Bible, those are often the first words? It’s scary – but good! Bad scary can be horrid. Good safe can be soggy. But good scary can take us places, if we’re up for the ride. And I think the amazing folk who are here tonight to be confirmed are up for it – so what about you? I’m one of nature’s hibernators; give me a good book and a cup of cocoa any time. But somehow God keeps on getting in the way and giving me no choice.

So thank goodness we’re in good company. The women at the tomb are told – you guessed it – “Do not be afraid”, and though they still are, they are filled with joy too and become the first witnesses to the resurrection. And just listen to a list of some of the others who heard those same words: Abraham, Joshua, Isaiah, Jeremiah, Mary, Joseph, Paul, the Twelve, and so it goes on.

We can learn from all of them.

If we’re facing change, new beginnings, new directions like Abraham: Do Not Be Afraid – the Spirit comes to give us new life, and it’s going to be good.

If we’re facing challenge, even conflict like Joshua: Do Not Be Afraid – the Spirit comes to help us in our weakness; it’s a promise.

If we’re facing the charge of a new ministry or work for God like Isaiah or Paul: Do Not Be Afraid – the Spirit comes to give us the gifts and words, and they’re just what we need.

If we’re facing the spiritual equivalent of having a child like Mary (or even really having one) and giving life away to others: Do Not Be Afraid – the Spirit comes to help us bear fruit and it’s fruit that will last.

All this is the work of the one Holy Spirit, the same Spirit by whose power Jesus was raised from the dead. We are sharers in the resurrection. Is that good scary, or what?

He is at work in us, now. And to that the only response is Allleuia, and Amen!

Faith and Wisdom in Science: Hold the Date

2014-04-19 10.12.24

Professor Tom McLeish’s new book on Faith and Wisdom in Science is out now! See if the 30% off code AAFLY6 still works at OUP website.http://ukcatalogue.oup.com/product/9780198702610.do!

I’ve had the privilege of working with Tom on a series of religion and science conferences at Durham, where he is Professor of Physics and Pro-Vice-Chancellor for Research – and an all-round great guy too. So I’m delighted that our fine local bookshop Toppings of Ely have just agreed to run one of their author evenings with Tom on Friday 6th June, 7.10 for 7.30 in Ely. Details to follow, but hold the date! This promises to be really good (and there’ll be a glass of wine and discount on the book too in return for you ticket).

  • Read on below for a taste of what is to come…

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Blossom at Bungay

2014-04-07 14.33.45 HDR2014-04-07 14.05.45 HDR 

I forgot to post these pictures of Bungay’s two ancient churches, which I visited when our staff were on retreat nearby. Holy Trinity (left) is the parish church, with one of those marvellous Saxon/Norman round towers and (visible from the outside only) the remains of an original window from the same time with its narrow slit-like opening to keep the weather out and wide splay to let the light in. St Mary’s (right) was a substantial priory church, now cared for by the Churches Conservation Trust. Inevitably the inside is rather spartan now, but most moving for me was the equivalent of the list of vicars, which here of course was a list of prioresses. So good to see those forgotten female names! Both churches are kept open for prayer, and today would be an ideal one to call in and say one.