I am sure you will all have heard the very sad news about the death of HRH Prince Philip.
This truly is a sad day for the nation, most especially, of-course, for our Queen and the Royal Family. There is no doubt that Prince Philip has played a huge and really important part in the life of service and dedication shown by Her Majesty to the United Kingdom and the Commonwealth. Everything that the Queen has done has been with her husband’s constant support and presence. His loyalty to his beloved wife has been a great example, especially considering his role was not always easy. Prince Philip has been the longest serving Consort of a monarch in the British Royal Family.
Our church flags are now at half mast, and as the Church of England is the State Church there are various rules that we need to follow.
At this moment in time, I offer below a prayer that has been sent out to all churches:
God of our lives,
we give thanks for the life of Prince Philip,
for his love of our country
and for his devotion to duty.
We entrust him now to your love and mercy
through our Redeemer, Jesus Christ.
As we take in this sad news, may we hold Her Majesty the Queen, and the Royal Family in our prayers, and too, be thankful for those in our lives whom we love.
04.04.2021 Easter Sunday
May I wish you all a very Happy Easter . . . . .
It has been a very busy few days, as it always is during Holy Week. The Benefice Zoom Team has been very busy putting on services every night of the week and our three churches have all been organising our individual happenings over the weekend.
In Henley we have seen sooooo many families journeying around the village looking out for the clues to help them complete the Egg Trail, organised by the Friends of Henley School. It has been a real joy seeing and hearing happy children taking part in the extremely well organised trail (very well done Emma!).
Across our three churches we organised an alternative to our Good Friday children’s workshop. Each participating child had received a bag containing craft kits, and were invited to join us on Zoom on Good Friday to show their (fantastic) efforts. It was lovely to see the children participating in the short service, and to receive many thank you messages from parents telling me that their children have really enjoyed making their crafts.
One of the crafts reminded me of a story I read many years ago, and repeated to my congregation. The craft that stirred the memory was a ‘tomb stone biscuit’ that the children had to decorate; the story was about a boy called Philip. It is another one of those stories which has several slightly different ‘versions’ . . . . .
Philip was born with Down’s Syndrome. When he was nine, he started to attend Sunday School, in a class of several eight year old boys and girls. Initially Philip was not made welcome. Some of the children didn’t accept him because of his ‘differences‘. But overtime the youngsters began to warm to him, and gradually include him in their ‘group’. The Sunday after Easter, the teacher gave each child an egg-shaped box and asked them to go out and find a symbol of NEW LIFE, and put it in the egg-like box. Excitedly they ran outside, and equally excited returned, ready to show what they had found.
Surrounded by the children, the teacher opened each box. After each one, whether holding flower, butterfly or leaf, the children would oooohhhh and aaaahhhh. Then one was opened revealing nothing. Some of the children reacted negatively “That’s stupid”, “That’s not fair” “Somebody hasn’t done what we were supposed to”
Eventually Philip spoke up. “It’s mine ”
A child retorted “”Philip you don’t ever do things right. There’s nothing here”
“I did do it right” Philip replied.
“My box is empty – the tomb was empty”. Silence followed.
Philip had figured out that the empty tomb is the ultimate sign of new life.
From then on, Philip was accepted fully as a member of the class, but sadly not for too long. He died soon after from an infection from which most children would have recovered. At his funeral, the Sunday School class of 8 year olds marched up the aisle, not with flowers, but each with an empty egg-shaped box, and placed them on Philip’s coffin.
And more than 2000 years on from that first ‘Easter Day’, there are still questions about the empty tomb. A tomb is a very dark place. Many of you reading this will know the fear of dark places – not just in a literal sense – but the fear of having to face that which we don’t want to face, the broken relationships, a broken heart, an empty or frightening future, the effects of Covid 19 or some other darkness that pervades through your life. The tomb can speak to those who know that darkness, who feel that fear, who see no hope.
The women who had waited at the foot of Christ’s cross had no hope as they ran to the tomb. But from that empty tomb, on that first Easter Day the message that Easter brought and brings is that in your darkest places, the dawn is on its way. Easter Day is a gift to us all, and it is the vital, beating heart of the Christian faith.
On this holiest of days, may you all find succour in that message of love for us all, and hope because of the resurrection. And whatever you are doing today, may you find joy in the Risen Christ.
With my love and Easter blessings to you and your families Cathy
Alleluia! Christ is risen! He is risen indeed! Alleluia!
PS It has been a very busy time lately, so I just thought I would let you know that I will probably have a week off from writing an email next week