Holiday club comes to a close

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A special Mass was celebrated in church today to mark the end of our special three day holiday club “Catholics in Space”. The older children read the lessons and Frances Lee, a member of the choir, had travelled in to play the piano. We even had two of our regular serving team- Peter and Matthew- in attendance to ensure it all went smoothly.

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One of the craft activities for today saw the children make some special UFO’s complete with jolly alien. They also made some pebble aliens and finished recreating Van Gogh’s “Starry Night” using string and paint to create the textures.

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Outside in the paddock the games proved popular too. A favourite involved an eating competition; the youngsters had to munch through hula hoops tied onto a long string without the use of hands! It caused much laughter from those taking part and the adults overseeing the chaos.

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Another game saw the children fishing for baby aliens, which bore a striking resemblance to jelly babies, from a tub of flour. Again they only had teeth to help them in the task….

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As you can see it caused quite a mess but it did not wipe off the smiles

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A massive thank you to all those who helped with this year’s holiday club. And especially to Hayley who planned it all and prepared the craft activities. It was a roaring success and it was wonderful to see our new buildings used exactly as we had hoped they would be. For worship and evangelisation, fellowship and fun.

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We have lift off!

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This morning the theme of space descended on our parish as we welcomed the children to this year’s holiday club “Catholics in Space” I always try and hunt out a fun costume in which to welcome the children – this year’s effort bringing a new angle to the line from Empire Strikes Back… “I am your father!”

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Darth Vader didn’t hang around for long. Just long enough to explain why he knows what the children were getting for Christmas. Apparently he has “felt their presence” Geddit?!

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The children’s first craft activity was to create planets to scale using paints. They  did this with enthusiasm and much skill…even if Jupiter began to sag a little and needed extra inflation as we worked. As you can see the end product is pretty impressive. Thank goodness Fr. Jack turned up to ensure we got the order right.

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As well as fantastic craft activities there were games to be played on the new paddock. A giant parachute providing  much excitement as the children ran under it and around it and bounced items within it.

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In total 32 children are attending the three day club. As well as craft and games they are  learning more about the Catholic faith. This year by studying the story of Daniel. And so, after a snack, we went into church to hear the first part of his incredible story- from his being captured into exile to his interpreting the dream of King Nebuchadnezzer.

The link to space is that Daniel became an alien- a stranger in a foreign land… tenuous but it sort of worked!  And being amongst people who did not share his faith he had a difficult choice to make. Should he go with the world and the regime/culture he was serving or stand up for God and his faith. In choosing the latter he made a great choice and God watched over Daniel.

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The children were asked to think about their own life. For we too, as Catholics, now live in a land where few share our faith. Will we follow the crowd or stand up for our faith? The decision to follow God does not make life is easy- in fact it could make it harder as it did for Daniel- but God will watch over us and give us the strength to overcome any challenges set before us.

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More news tomorrow when we turn to tales of fiery furnaces and learn about the art of Vincent Van Gogh. I shall leave you with a picture of the rockets made today which were set before the sun to dry…

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A new pulpit

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This morning people were overjoyed with the new benches which have given St. Anselm’s a feeling of being a permanent and proper church. And we were also overjoyed, and grateful, that a new pulpit has been gifted to us this week. It fits so perfectly into the sanctuary and is another item of quality to glorify this space and set it aside for the devout worship and praise of God.

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The pulpit has been given as a memorial to Father Ambrose McLoughlin, who passed away this year, by members of his family and former parishioners. Fr. Ambrose was, for some 70 years, a priest of the Archdiocese of Southwark serving as parish priest of Our Lady of Victories, Wimbledon until his retirement. An uncompromising man who spoke truth to those in authority he hated sin and loved sinners. This pulpit is given that his work may be continued in God’s name.

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Being filled with child like excitement at the fruits being harvested in Pembury, Father Nicholas and I both wished to try out the new pulpit! So I preached at 9:15am and he at 11am! During his homily he took up the theme of abundance from left overs – reflecting on the feeding of the 5000. He pointed out to us that everything brought into our church these last three years- altar, pulpit, benches, stations, cruficixes et al, were at some point considered surplus to requirements. Either due to parish closure or refurbishment. And so from the left overs of others we have built this place. And now we must go out and fill it with abundance to the glory of God.

The inscription carved around the new pulpit is rather apt. “be ye doers of the word and not hearers only” A motto for each one of us to take to heart. Do click on the images to enlarge them. They were taken on Friday morning when the pulpit was gathered into the church. We owe thanks to Mike Blande for driving to collect it and helping to polish and instal it. And to Jemima for modelling it for us. This morning the hymn board was placed in a new position and a crucifix hung above the pulpit as is fitting.

Details for Aylesford day pilgrimage

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Today a day pilgrimage, organised by Ordinariate clergy from the Kent and Sussex area, takes place at Aylesford Priory. Everyone is very welcome to attend. The principle speaker is Oratorian priest, Father Jerome Bertram, whose title is “What is the Ordinariate saying to the wider Catholic church?”

Those wishing to attend are asked to gather in the main car park at Aylesford a few minutes before 11:30am when the following programme begins. See you there I hope! The weather forecast-following yesterday’s storms- is pleasant.

11:30am Pilgrimage Procession (meet in car park)

11:45am Solemn Mass of St. James the Apostle.

1:30pm Picnic lunch and free time

2:30pm Main address:

“What is the Ordinariate saying

to the wider Catholic Church”

Fr. Jerome Bertram

(children’s games take place in the grounds during the talk)

3:30pm Benediction of the Blessed Sacrament

Fear of faith in modern society

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Jeremy Corbyn is an old fashioned lefty. A politician who believes in certain principles and wishes to bring them into play. What a refreshing change from the plague of “professional politicians”- those dullards who serve up predictable banality across the parties to the furtherance of self not ideology. Little wonder Corbyn is capturing the imagination and doing well. Thirty years ago he would have seemed ordinary but today he is causing a stir. Tony Blair warns Labour will be doomed if he is elected. Establishment figures look on aghast! What can be done with such obvious strength of faith?

The other interesting story at the moment concerns Tim Farron. A liberal democrat MP standing for election as leader who, like Corbyn, is causing a stir because of passionate belief. He is an evangelical Christian and does not wish to hide his faith in Jesus Christ. This has led to him being attacked in the media. Which is strange- nobody gave Clegg a hard time for being an atheist, asking if his lack of belief might cloud his judgement on faith schools, etc… Yet Farron was absolutely battered on Radio 4 by Humphries –  openly mocked for his faith. it seems that amongst the elites of modern Britain a real Christian faith is now socially unacceptable. Once again the question being- what can be done with such obvious strength of faith?

This “fear of faith” has been spreading for some time throughout Western culture. Certainly for all of my life. It explains the hunger for de-Christianisation within the establishment, the gradual loss of school acts of worship and the radical secularisation of our universities. It also helps us understand something of the decline within the church. For- rather ironically it must be said- this fear of strong faith has also infected church hierarchies too!! How the grey and wishy washy bishop cringes at the sight of firm bible believing Christians! Those who have not relativised the Gospel but who hunger to put it into practice.

We begin to see why, over the last half century, faithful clergy have often been pushed to the margins as the grey men of dubious belief and little substance have risen through the ranks. A truth most obvious in the Church of England with its links to the State but in other denominations too. The term “Magic Circle” exists for a reason… You end up with a weak and compromised institutional leadership, hirelings in the place of true shepherds. As if wishy washiness is great news and passionate faith the thing to be avoided.

Here then is my question to Western Culture. Why are you so afraid of living faith? What is it about conviction that has you knocking at the knees? What is the reasons? I have my own suggestions.

First the violence stemming from Islam is not helping faith in general. When maniacs crash aeroplanes into buildings -claiming their faith to be the reason- it can make us all imagine “passionate faith” is a dangerous thing. When lunatics shout “Alluha Akbar” before slicing off heads it makes us all uneasy about “belief” in general. Though, of course, logic dictates it is what we believe, not belief itself, which is the menace. A world believing in love would hardly pose a problem. But this finer point of logic is largely lost on a world losing its own faith and now deeply ignorant of the difference between religions, creeds and dogmas.

So fanaticism does not help. But there is a deeper reason, I suggest, which causes modern culture to fill its collective pants in the face of living faith. Namely that the culture and those who benefit from it are devoid of any real belief at this time. Like career politicians- they blow with the wind. A vacuum exists where integrity should be found. The vile truth at the heard of the priestly abuse crisis, and in the expense scandals in Westminster and the failure of the banks and the inability of corporations to pay tax and so on and so forth…

And this is why the Corbyns and Fallons and Farages of this world terrify the elites today. When someone of actual belief threatens to break through the constructed walls of mediocrity- it does not flatter those in authority. Cracks begin to show and the incompetence and apathy of the many becomes obvious. And it is for this reason men of faith and strength must be crushed at all cost and usually are. They might just wreck the gravy train or pull snouts from the troughs.

If only we demanded more from those in authority. From bishops and MPs, educationalists, celebrities and bankers. If only we were not so content with corruption and mediocrity then we might just get a leadership to inspire. Until then we must make do with more of the nonsense as witnessed this week when Mr Cameron was banging on about “British Values” without reference to which values they might be or even the Britain he images they come from. Father Hunwicke was quite right to call him to account and point out the nonsense he was spouting. But until others do the same it is all we can hope for.

Reflecting on the end of a chapter…

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After an inevitably rocky start in 2011 (how could it not have been rocky given that two different congregations of similar size had to be integrated with just 11 days notice?) the arrival of the Ordinariate in Pembury has proved profoundly good news, I believe, for those who stuck with the vision.

First it secured the future of this village church at a time when many small churches face closure. Second it has provided priests in abundance with no less than 5 former Anglican ministers having presented themselves for ordination as Catholic priests in just four years. And finally it has heralded clear signs of growth and renewal within the congregation, especially in regard to young families and children. The average age of worshipper has dropped and 32 littles ones descending for the summer holiday club next week tells its own story.

Throughout the transition, the coming together of one body breathing with two lungs, much work has been done to transform our site within and without. The photograph above is testament to this fact- do click and enlarge it. We have felled over 70 leylandii, planted a new garden, constructed a parish hall and narthex and beautified the worship space. Dual use of a building has given way to permanent space for devotion and for community use. What a productive journey we have been on together – little wonder visitors comment on the vibrancy they detect. We may be a small village church but we are bursting with life. A positive sign being the increasing level of charitable giving year on year.

The arrival of pews yesterday signaled the final phase of the five year plan which, thanks to the graft of many, was completed in four. A chapter ends and God has been good to us. This August we must pause and rest and give thanks for all these blessings witnessed in Pembury. This last year especially has been a happy one with unity felt between those who worship here. As I explained to Fr. Mason, the Episcopal visitor, last Sunday- there is no them and us regarding diocesan and Ordinariate anymore. Merely a range of services to which all are welcome. We are simply a Catholic parish like any other, albeit one in which an English Spiritual tradition is especially valued in accordance with our vocation.

Two conversations last week reminded me of the progress made. The first with a long standing diocesan member who told me they cannot believe the transformation of worship space and are feeling more alive in their faith than they have for many years. That is music to priestly ears. The other positive conversation was with an ordinariate member who, having deeply mourned the loss of the building we left behind, stated that they wouldn’t now swap St Anselm’s for all the world! How wonderful that our modest church is now feeling like a true home for worshippers across the spectrum. A new home for everyone as we have been brought together in love.

In September, after a well deserved rest, we must not relax but begin again. A new five year plan begins!!!  The aim of which is to pay off debts incurred by the new hall and further beautify worship space. To this end volunteers will give the walls of the church a much needed lick of paint. We then hope to varnish and polish the floor. In the longer term the vision is to build a proper sanctuary with steps, to lift the altar to a more prominent position and construct a gradine, to stain the window and modernise ceiling and lighting.

Finally we hope to make a little baptistery in the area beyond the organ where a permanent font can be situated. All of this will take time, of course, and require funding. Any benefactors out there get in touch!! But there is time for us now that we have secured a permanent space for edifying worship…plenty of time to build our church to the glory of God and to the very best of our ability. Above all we want our building to become a beacon in our community- a place in which  Jesus Christ is ever our heart beat and all are made welcome in his name.

The pews have arrived

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This afternoon operation pew went ahead as planned and another step on the journey to creating permanent space for worship in Saint Anselm’s was taken. As you can see they are solidly built and very much in keeping with the building. We now need to give them a jolly good clean and polish.

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The pews come with full size altar rails which means the current rails can be moved to the side chapel where they are a perfect fit. Full size rails in the main church are much more practical and will ease congestion at the point of communion. The tea break pictured was much deserved. The pews are heavy and took some shifting!

A great day

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Yesterday was a great day at Saint Anselm’s. The 9:15am Mass was a quieter mass than usual, a reflective devotion with no music for the 30 people in attendance. Made up of those unable to come to the BBQ or helping set up for it. At 11am it was standing room only, we ran out of chairs, as we offered mass with choir and full ceremony and baptised all five children belonging to one of our newest families. It was a lovely surprise to be visited by Fr. Paul Mason, our local Episcopal vicar, who has been a great supporter of all that we are doing. He was most impressed with the building work and stayed for a hot dog and a chat!

We had hoped to bless Ernie and Kathleen at the end of the mass, who are celebrating a 60th Wedding Anniversary this week. But sadly Ernie was taken into hospital overnight and so this celebration was delayed. Hopefully we can do so in the coming weeks. Get better soon Earnie, we enjoyed seeing your family and friends who came to visit Kathleen in your absence.

After Mass the most delicious aroma of sizzling sausages, burgers and spiced chicken wings invited us onto the new grassed area in front of church for our annual summer BBQ. Live music was provided courtesy of “Sold Out” a local cover band containing members of our congregation. They were, as ever, superb.

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It has become a slightly surreal and amusing tradition (of two whole consecutive years) that we hold a silly hat competition during the BBQ. The entrants march in a circle as wacky music plays. It is judged by the most fitting expert we can find- ‘Steve the hat’- a resident of the village who often worships with us. He himself is never seen without his colourful headgear. This year he judged Robert to be the worthy winner. Robert proved a proud champion and delighted with his prize!

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A huge vote of thanks to all who helped organise and run the BBQ this year. It was a relaxed and happy occasion and the weather could not have been kinder to us. The first BBQ in our refurbished building and gardens.

BBQ tomorrow

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This morning I drove to Fuller’s butchers in Tunbridge Wells, they are pictured above, to pick up several large carrier bags full of delicious meat goods ready for the church BBQ tomorrow.

Fuller’s have a fantastic reputation locally and happen to be sponsors of the rugby club. So I have no hesitation in recommending them. They could not have been more helpful regarding our order and offered competitive rates and good wishes for the fun tomorrow. Here is to you Fuller’s butchers!

A reminder then that the 9:15am Mass will be said and is perfect for those setting up. The 11am Mass will b Sung with no less than five baptisms! Then it is time for the BBQ itself. Burgers, hot dogs and spiced chicken wings will compliment the salads and deserts, which are being donated by members of the congregation. The first drink is free after which we ask for donations..so bring some pennies with you. Any profit made on the day will go towards the new storage units for the hall.

Finally I am delighted to announce that, this year, we have live acoustic music throughout the afternoon courtesy of in house band “Sold Out”. It promises to be a good afternoon. So let us hope the sun shines…but even if it doesn’t then there is always the new hall to be used in emergency!

Odd jobs

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This morning Father Inlaw visited the parish to help with some odd jobs that needed doing. The first task was to secure our lovely Christus Rex to the narthex wall. It will now greet parishioners as they enter the building.

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It was then time to erect the bell which announces Mass each Sunday. Height is all important here- given that the entrance is used by the nursery during the week! Tiny fingers love to ring at every possible opportunity so we placed it just tantalisingly beyond reach…aren’t we cruel?

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Having placed the items in the narthex we ventured into the grounds. The disabled parking signs were moved to a better place and a large wooden cross, which I had in storage, was placed on the chapel wall to break it up a bit. This large plain wall is not the most aesthetically pleasing aspect of our building. But the cross helps break it up a bit and we will soon plant some climbing flowers to surround the cross and soften it up. It should then look lovely.

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Finally we erected the “This week at Saint Anselm’s” notice board outside of the new doors. Here people can keep abreast of what is going on in the parish even if the building is closed. You get a good view of the new entrance doors in this shot which we wanted to be inviting and welcome for visitors.

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A break for a light lunch now and we return later in the afternoon to put up the display boards in the new hall. Two for the nursery and one for Sunday School.

A huge thank you to handyman Peter. He has certainly earned his beer today. Best break open the piggy bank and head down to the Black Horse before supper…