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Event Diary

This page lists future events in ascending date order.  Click on any event for more information.

Thursday 30 January 2020

  Charles, King and Martyr. 1649

Saturday 1 February 2020

  Ralph Nevill 1244

Saturday 15 February 2020

  Thomas Bray, Priest, Founder of SPCK & SPG, 1730

Thursday 27 February 2020

  George Herbert (1593-1633)

George Herbert, poet and writer, is remembered by the Church on February 27th. Perhaps for us, in our country parish, we might feel closest to George Herbert in his role as parish priest. He was Rector of Bemerton, a small village near Salisbury. In his parish he could be seen visiting his parishioners, particularly the sick and the poor; he could be seen in his church each morning and evening saying Morning and Evening Prayer. Before each service, he would ring the church bell to encourage the faithful to come to church or, if not, at least to pause in their work and join their prayers with his. He could be seen organising the restoration of the church building of St Andrew.

With his love of music he would regularly make his way to his cathedral church in Salisbury to attend Evening Prayer and, if possible, to play the cathedral organ. So much of what he did was what country parsons have always done in their parishes, down through the ages. But George Herbert's life had not been always like this. Until 1625, his life centred on the University of Cambridge and the Court of King James 1. His scholarship was such that he was appointed Public Orator at Cambridge which necessitated the delivery of speeches of welcome to distinguished visitors and the writing of dutiful letters of thanks to benefactors to the University - all in Latin!

He received an allowance from the King and, for a short time, was even a Member of Parliament. All this changed in 1625 when King James died and George Herbert decided that there was more to life than the grandeur of life at Cambridge and Court. For the remaining 8 years of his short life he turned to his faith. Alchemy fascinated men in the early 17th century - how to produce precious gold from inferior substances. For George Herbert the precious gold of life he discovered could only be found in Jesus Christ.

As he wrote in his poem which we know as the hymn 'Teach me my God and King', :'This is the famous stone :That turneth all to gold' : - the famous stone being, of course, Our Lord Jesus Christ. His poetry and writing combines a simplicity of faith with a depth and perception about the nature of Christ and of our relationship with him. We see our Lord as 'King of glory, King of love' and we sing praise and glory in 'Let all the world in every corner sing'.

As we wend our way to our Cathedral in Chichester on George Herbert's day (February 27th), we can think of how he too made his frequent journeys to his cathedral in Salisbury. And when we hear the bell of St Margaret's ringing out over the village just before 9 o'clock each weekday morning we can think and pray just as George Herbert did so inspiringly all those years ago in his little parish church in Wiltshire.

Richard Allen

Saturday 7 March 2020

  Perpetua, Felicity & Companions, 203

Sunday 8 March 2020

  Edward King, Bishop of Lincoln, 1910

Tuesday 31 March 2020

  John Donne, Priest, Poet, 1631

Sunday 24 May 2020

  John and Charles Wesley

Saturday 30 May 2020

  Josephine Butler, 1906

Friday 5 June 2020

  Boniface of Crediton

Monday 27 July 2020

  Brooke Foss Westcott (1825-1901)

Bishop Westcott just squeezes into this series on leading church figures of the twentieth century. He died on July 27th 1901 after a long and varied career in academic and ecclesiastical circles. He was born in Birmingham, obtained a double first at Cambridge in mathematics and classics and was ordained priest in 1849. He spent seventeen years teaching at Harrow School where weakness in class control reduced his effectiveness as a schoolmaster. Perhaps it was a relief for him to become a Canon of Peterborough Cathedral followed, in 1870, by election as Professor of Divinity at Cambridge.

His years at Cambridge enabled him to extend and deepen his studies of the Bible and particularly of the New Testament and he was a major influence on the publication of the Revised Version of the Bible in 1881. He believed it right to have a scientific approach to Bible study so that detailed investigation into ancient texts would produce an improved understanding of the scriptures. This was very significant for a generation coming to terms with the impact of Darwin's theories of evolution on the previously accepted Authorised Version of the beginnings of the world.

Westcott's profound influence on the way Biblical studies should be pursued affected the training of ordinands which, in turn, led to the founding of the Cambridge Clergy Training School, later re-named Westcott House. But Westcott was not to be allowed to end his days contentedly in his professorial chair for, in 1890, at the age of 65, he was consecrated Bishop of Durham. Some doubted that an intellectual from such a previously sheltered academic environment could be an effective bishop in a diocese containing so much heavy industry and commerce.

Indeed, few of his congregations in the mining communities of Durham could follow the involved and obscure themes of his sermons and yet they came to love him. This was because he immediately absorbed himself in the practical problems of everyday living and he was determined that the Church should face up to current social and economic problems.

In 1892, he personally called together both sides in a bitter dispute in the Durham coalfield and persuaded them to accept a solution to their difficulties. He staunchly supported the Co-operative movement and was a champion of the Christian Social Union. Through his theological studies and writings, Bishop Westcott made a huge contribution to our understanding of the New Testament and, particularly to that of the Incarnation and the Resurrection. But any understanding of the Gospel was only of value to Westcott if it was also applied to the challenges of this earthly life.

This was the example he set through his humility, his wisdom and his genuine love for his fellow human beings. 'The humanest and kindliest of men' was how one of his Durham parish priests described him.

Richard Allen

Thursday 30 July 2020

  William Wilberforce (1759-1833)

'If to be feelingly alive to the sufferings of my fellow creatures is to be a fanatic, I am one of the most incurable fanatics ever permitted to be at large'. these are the words of William Wilberforce, remembered particularly for his campaigning against slavery. He came from a prosperous family of merchants and, at the age of 21, was elected MP for his home city of Hull. Turning away from the typical life of the wealthy, he belonged to the Clapham Sect, a group of Evangelical Christians devoted to social reform. Wilberforce declared that there were two main causes to which he would devote his time and energy. 'the suppression of the slave trade and the reformation of manners (morality)'.

In the late 1780s, he recruited support for his campaign against slavery from his friend, the Prime Minister, William Pitt, the Younger. Each year Wilberforce would introduce into the Commons a motion for the abolition of the slave trade in the British Empire. The vested interests of the slave traders and preoccupation with the wars against France prevented any success until 1807 when at last slave trading was abolished. Even so, it was not until 1833, the year of Wilberforce's death, that slavery was finally ended in British colonies. Wilberforce continued to press for reform in many other directions - improving working conditions in factories, providing education for all children, improving conditions for prisoners and protecting animals from cruelty.

When he retired as an MP in 1825 he refused the peerage offered to him because he thought that aristocratic society would be bad for his children!! Were Wilberforce to return to the world of 2009 he would surely continue to campaign against slavery which is still evident in many parts of the world. Many thousands of women are trafficked as sex workers. In Haiti, for example, many thousands of children are domestic slaves (restavecs). In other countries workers are bound by debt into forced labour for their employers. In some African countries to hold someone in slavery has only very recently been recognised as a crime. So the campaigning of Wilberforce has to continue. Some thought Wilberforce to be a saint, others thought him sanctimonious, some saw him as liberal and others saw him as reactionary. But his commitment to his Christian faith was absolute and he answered his own question with his customary forthrightness: 'Can you tell a plain man the road to heaven? Certainly, turn, at once, to the right then go straight forward'.

Richard Allen

Saturday 15 August 2020

  Oscar Romero 1917 - 1980

Oscar Romero was born on August 15th 1917. He died a martyr for his faith in March 1980. He came from a remote part of El Salvador, the smallest of the Central American republics. A strongly Roman Catholic country, El Salvador has a history of much political instability and injustice. Much of the land and wealth lies in the hands of a small powerful minority. Ordained priest in 1942, Oscar Romero pursued an uneventful ministry eventually becoming a diocesan bishop. He kept clear of the upheavals within the Roman Catholic Church of the 1960s and of the rising protests against injustice in his own country. However, in 1975, an event occurred within his diocese which changed his outlook irrevocably. Five country folk were wantonly killed in a raid by government forces on a hamlet in his diocese. Oscar was outraged and protested to the President of the country at this violation of human rights. Appointed Archbishop of San Salvador, the capital city, in 1977, he continued his campaign for justice for the majority of citizens who lived in such dire poverty. Inevitably, such a stance brought him up against the reactionary government of the time. Many hundreds of people, thought to be protesters, disappeared without trace, priests were murdered and Oscar and his friends and colleagues were under constant threat. Despite this constant hostility from the government, the Archbishop persisted in his championing of the poor and underprivileged. Knowing that there would almost certainly be a violent end to his protests, Oscar prepared for the inevitable by sending a farewell message through a newspaper in neighbouring Mexico. He insisted that like Christ, the Good Shepherd, a pastor must give his life for those he loves. On March 24th 1980, as he celebrated mass at the funeral of the mother of a friend he was shot at the altar and died as he was consecrating the elements. The assassin was never found, but 250,000 people massed in cathedral Square for the Archbishop�s funeral, of whom 40 were to die in a bomb explosion. Such violence and persecution continued in this troubled country until a peace plan was agreed in 1991. Archbishop Romero is included among the twentieth century martyrs who stand at the west front of Westminster Abbey. From such a modest and unremarkable early life this priest and archbishop was to emerge as one of the most revered Christian leaders of the twentieth century. Richard Allen

Monday 26 October 2020

  Alfred the Great