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 Letter from the Vicarage April 2014






Jesus said:

                28“Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. 29Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. 30For my yoke is easy and my burden is light.”        

Matthew Chapter 11.

We are now well into the solemn season of Lent and Easter will shortly be here. This year it will be a time of farewells and endings, as Jim and Lily take their leave of us, and a time of new beginnings as in Easter we are drawn to new things and God’s endless creative power.

I am assured that all is progressing well towards Easter because the supermarkets are overflowing with chocolate eggs! But, seriously, how can we judge if our daily Lenten journey is going well? How can we know that our faith and devotion are adequate during Lent - or at any other time of the year?

It can be a knotty problem for Christians - to understand the purpose of the Christian life. Is what we do and believe as Christians about winning God’s grace and favour or is that something we needn’t worry about because God freely gives us his grace? Or in fact do we seek to live in a certain way precisely because God loves us and we can always begin on the constant foundation of his grace already given…’the glorious liberty of the children of God’?

We have every kind of Christian in our churches. Those who are robust, extrovert and activist in their faith, confident to speak of God and not a shadow of doubt anywhere. And there are those whose faith is so small as to be hardly noticed by others and so quiet as not to be heard and for whom loving their neighbour involves an overwhelming and sometimes impossible effort. Yet God loves us all and freely, joyfully, embraces each one with his grace. You can think of many Gospel passages which portray this.

I am not making excuses for lazy Christianity! There is much that can be done to share the kingdom of God’s generous grace in the world - but let it be offered as a sign of what God has first done for us in Christ and take the pressure off. Let’s celebrate Lent and Easter. During Lent, traditionally through prayer and fasting, we can challenge again any idea that Christian discipleship is about earning God’s attention and approval. It is, rather, a response to God, a celebration of God’s love and grace which always go before us.

The ‘Tackling Poverty Together’ campaign of the Church Urban Fund (CUF) is just one way of celebrating God’s love and grace - for the poor as well as the rich. Both need liberating and according to the love of God, as shown to us in Jesus Christ, overcoming human poverty, in all its forms, is a right thing to do! That’s all the reason we need to be involved alongside others who see no necessary connection to Christian faith in such campaigns.

Let’s face it making poverty history is a whole lot more meaningful than giving up chocolate for Lent! Becoming involved in Fair Trade and the worldwide Trade Justice Movement (of which the Fairtrade Foundation is but one member organisation), is one way of getting directly involved in the ‘Tackling Poverty Together’ campaign. You will find Lent and many other resources online at the ‘Church Urban Fund’ site.

Becoming active in environmental issues locally and developing partnerships with civil and human rights organisations working together for more humane and  compassionate social systems and good government is the business of believing in a God of grace and love…and so it goes on! It seems the Christian life is inevitably a political life; just consider the story of Jesus.

Every church and every Christian can make a contribution even if it is merely learning to think about such things in new ways. And let God’s amazing grace and love for all be the foundation, both the starting point and the purpose of all our activity.

Being a Christian is challenging and exciting stuff…the stuff of transforming people’s lives and changing the world for our children and grandchildren!

These sacred challenges, worked out in the transformation of people’s lives, become glimpses of Easter - the gift and power of the resurrection.

We pray God’s Easter peace and blessings for Jim and Lily Field - And for all of us! 

Philip Down

Archdeacon of Ashford

Jim and Lily Field

As everyone knows Jim and Lily Field are due to leave us at the end of April. I hope to see many of you at the farewell on the last Sunday of the month at New Romney. Subsequently the Benefice will enter a period of vacancy as far as the post of Rector is concerned. This is not to say that anything stops or we simply enter a period of idle waiting. There will be much to continue and it will be a case of all hands on deck in every parish.

The Deanery and Diocese are clear that this post is strategic to the deployment of clergy on the Marsh and we have already begun the formal process of seeking to make a new appointment. The Deanery and Diocese Mission and Ministry Committees are also clear that the necessity of further pastoral reorganisation remains and so we will be arranging for the ‘Suspension of Presentation to the Living’ which means that initially we will seek to appoint a Priest in Charge for the Romney Benefice with a view to examining the deployment in preparation potentially for further change at the time of Sarah Williams eventual retirement from Lydd.

This need not delay a new appointment and already I have met and briefed the church wardens about these things and begun to set up the appointments process.

The timetable is provisionally:

·       March – Appointment by PCC’s of Parish Representatives

·       March-May – development of Benefice profile with help from Local Church Development staff.

·       May – agreed profile

·       May/June – advertise nationally

·       June – shortlisting and interview

·       If this is successful an appointment might be possible then in the Autumn Sept/Oct.

All of this will require an immense amount of faithful waiting and prayer and a growing mindfulness of one another.

I look forward to working with you as we await the gift of a new ministry amongst us.


Archdeacon Philip

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