Vicar’s Blog

A Grateful Heart

Dear People of Alnwick,

At the end of the month — on Thursday 27th February — the Church remembers and gives thanks for the life of George Herbert, priest and poet, who died on that day in 1633.
Born in 1593 into an aristocratic family, the young George went to Cambridge University in 1614, eventually becoming a Fellow of Trinity College. At the age of 25, he became Public Orator in the University and then a Member of Parliament, apparently destined for a life at court.

To everyone’s surprise, he decided to be ordained and, he was made deacon in 1626. He married in 1629, was priested in 1630 and given the care of souls of the parish of Bemerton, near Salisbury, where he spent the rest of his short life. He wrote prolifically, his hymns still being popular throughout the English-speaking world. (Amongst the best known are: King of glory, King of peace; Let all the world in every comer sing and Teach me, my God and King.)

His treatise “The Country Parson” on the priestly life, and his poetry, especially “The Temple” earned Herbert a leading place in English literature.

He never neglected the care of the souls of Bemerton, however, and encouraged his people to pray with him daily at Morning and Evening Prayer — calling to mind the words of his hymn “Seven whole days, not one in seven, I will praise thee”.

Tucked away in the middle of his poems is a favourite of mine entitled “Gratefulness”. I’m aware that I’ve quoted its opening lines on a number of occasions but they never cease to resonate with me:

“Thou who hast giv’n so much to me,
Give one thing more, a grateful heart.”

In this month when the Church goes back into the green of “Ordinary Time” for a few weeks before Ash Wednesday and Lent, let me encourage you to concentrate on all we have to be grateful for.

We all have a roof over our heads, warmth, clothing and more than enough to eat. Most of us have a very precious gift in our family and friends and, even if our health is not as good as it might be, we have doctors, hospitals and a National Health Service that is still the envy of the world.

And, as if to crown all this, we have a faith in, and a companionship with, Jesus Christ who gave us a blessed promise in his parting words:

“And remember, I am with you always, to the end of the age. ” (Matthew 28:20)

So, even in what many consider to be the “miserable” month of February, let us all take the opportunity to look positively at our lives, to value even the little things that increase the quality of our being and our relationships and let’s do all we can to show our gratitude to God — and to each other.

And to put us on the right track we could all take a lead from George Herbert and make those two lines from “Gratefulness” into a daily prayer.

With every blessing, as always,

P.S. May I also take the opportunity to say a particular thank you to all
who have expressed joy and sent good wishes to Jane and myself following the announcement of our engagement to be married. The warmth of your response and the encouragement you have given us means a great deal to us both.


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Christmas Service Times 2013

These were the service times in Christmastime 2013

Wednesday 11th December 10:15am – Mothers’ Union Advent Service in church. All welcome.

Sunday 15th December 4.00pm – Carols at Denwick.

Tuesday 17th December 3.30pm – St Michael’s C of E 1st School Candlelight Christmas

Wednesday 18th December 7.00pm – Mayor’s Carol Service

Sunday 22nd December 6.00pm – Candlelight Carol Service

Tuesday 24th December Christmas Eve
4.30pm Family Carols and Christingle
11.30pm Midnight Mass

Wednesday 25th December Christmas Day
8.00am Holy Communion
9.30pm Christmas Eucharist

Thursday 26th December St Stephen
10.00am Holy Communion

Friday 27th December St John
9.30am Holy Communion

Saturday 28th December The Holy Innocents
9.30am Holy Communion

Sunday 29th December – normal Sunday services:
8.00am Holy Communion
9.30am Parish Eucharist
11.15am Late Morning Worship
6.00pm Sung Evensong

Wednesday 1st January 10.15am Holy Communion

Sunday 5th January The Epiphany
Communion at 8, 9.30 & 11.15am
Sung Evensong at 6.00pm

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Christmas Lights

Dear People of Alnwick,

I am writing this letter only two days after the switch-on of the Alnwick Christmas Lights – and I want to pay tribute to that small but dedicated band of folk who work tirelessly and manage to transform our town for the dark days of December in such a spectacular way.

Many of us, I suspect, enjoy the pleasure of walking through the town, soaking up the special atmosphere which the lights provide and perhaps observing, in passing, that they make a pretty show.

Of course, nothing really worthwhile happens without a great deal of unseen preparatory work and hidden effort (as our recent Winter Market proved!) but I wonder how many people are aware that repair, maintenance and preparation of the lights goes on weekly from the beginning of May each year to ensure that our town looks so splendid over the festive season?

The message of Advent and Christmas – from darkness to light – also involves much preparation, and not a little hard work, if we are to enjoy the full light of Christ’s incarnation.

We read in the Old Testament how, down the centuries, the prophets spent time preparing the people of Israel for the coming of their Messiah: some of those people heard and others did not – but that did not prevent God’s preparatory work continuing.

When the time was right, God then sent his Son to be with us and, once again, some were ready to recognise the light and enhance their lives as a result whilst others were not.

The questions I would like to pose for us to ponder as we journey through Advent and Christmas this year are these: Do we simply see the birth of Christ as a ‘pretty’ episode in our lives, bringing in a little light at a dark time of year? Or, do we recognise the hard work of God behind the sending of his Son to be our Saviour – and have we prepared our hearts, our minds, our lives to receive him?

Some time during January our Christmas lights will be dismantled – but the light of Christ will continue to shine in our lives and illuminate our way if only we give him the opportunity to do so.

May the light of Christ fill your lives and may our simple but meaningful prayer over these coming days be:

“O come to my heart, Lord Jesus,
there is room in my heart for thee.”

With every blessing for Christmas and all that lies ahead in 2014,


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