The benefice comprises four adjacent parishes: Farleigh, The Candovers with Bradley, Northington and Wield. The parish of Farleigh has four churches; Cliddesden, Dummer, Ellisfield and Farleigh Wallop. The parish of The Candovers with Bradley has three churches; Preston Candover, Brown Candover and Bradley.
The parishes together form the benefice of Farleigh, Candover and Wield which is served by two full time Priests: the Rector, David Chattell who takes primary responsibility for the Parishes of The Candovers with Bradley, Northington and Wield and the Assistant Rector, Stephen Mourant who has primary responsibility for the Parish of Farleigh.
Parish Prayer/Bible Reading Diary
The November - December edition is now available. We include prayers for our communities, those in need, and some of our regular church events across the benefice.
I write this during the second week of the second “lockdown”, as we are told to restrict our interactions with others, to slow down and stop the spread of the corona virus. Again, we have been told not to meet in our churches to worship corporately, although we are all welcome to enter our sacred spaces to pray.
Our personal relationship with the Lord in prayer is not confined to going to a place of prayer, for nowhere in the New Testament are we told to go to church – we ARE the church, and when we opened our lives to Jesus Christ, He entered and took up residence in our hearts; “Christ is IN you, the hope of Glory” (Colossians 1:27). We do not need church buildings to worship, for wherever we are, HE is – “You are the temple of the Holy Spirit.” (1 Corinthians6:19)
But God’s word also reminds us “Do not neglect to meet together, as is the habit of some,” (Hebrews 10:25); fellowship, encouraging one another, is so important too – for “where two or three are gathered together, there I am in the midst of them” (Matthew 18:20.) Human relationships, human contact, is part of being alive, and part of being “church” – we need one another’s company especially in difficult times. When we are cooped up with the same person or people for a prolonged time, it can bring out the best – and worst in us, which is why we need some interaction with others; our mental and emotional health is more under pressure when we are separated from others, for the imagination can do strange things. We can be greatly thankful for phone calls, “Facetime”, Skype/Zoom and other video/audio platforms, enabling us to see and talk to people across the world, and join in worship, whether our own home-grown services by David and I, or other worship services we can find online if we look.
BUT Christ is with us, He is in you if you have invited Him in, and His presence can build us up when we make time to listen and seek His face. Richard Wurmbrand, a Romanian pastor, was in solitary confinement for years because of his opposition to the communist regime in his country; he wrote later of the sheer ecstasy of Jesus’ presence with him in the underground cell- we are never alone; Jesus is with us.
David and I have been talking with PCCs about December and the Christmas services; until we know what we are allowed to do, it is difficult to plan ahead. We have some different scenarios – if we ARE allowed to go back into our buildings to get together and sing our favourite carols (or at least listen to small groups singing to us) then how do we manage numbers: do we hold open air shortened carol services where we hear some of the Bible stories foretelling the coming of Jesus alongside the nativity accounts? Do we hold carol services several times over to cater for the usual numbers? How do we do communion, especially Christmas Eve and Christmas Day? Can we have Christingle services?
As soon as plans are made clearer by the church leaders and government– and you may be aware that very strong representation and opposition has been made by all faith leaders over this latest restriction as most of us have been able to manage social distancing and careful hand sanitising and been careful in worship - we will send out a plan and circulate it as quickly as we can and certainly the Benefice website will have the latest news.
Reflecting theologically and biblically, these may be difficult times, but are not unprecedented. In every century there have been crises, shortages, war and worse. We can make the best of these times by looking in – and finding the presence of Jesus with us; we can look up and realise God is in control and we can trust Him, and looking out – how can we help someone else – serving others is the best antidote to feeling low – we can be a blessing to another – a phone call, some food dropped off to someone’s door, a prayer for another, and above all knowing there is nothing to be afraid of –far too much fear has been spread, instead of hope, joy and encouragement. Be joyful, Jesus is for us and with us.
God is WITH us.”
With prayerful love and hope this Christmas season,