St Mary’s and St Anne’s together

The churches of St Mary’s and St Anne’s are now in a new Parish of Calmore and Eling, St Mary’s now being the Parish Church. We are about to embark on elections for a Parochial Church Council, commonly known as a PCC. Eventually, there will be a new Vicar but in the meantime we run with a team of retired Ministers, Licensed Lay Ministers and the Churchwardens.

We had our first service after lockdown on Easter Sunday where both churches came together at St Mary’s on a gloriously sunny, but cold, day. It was a great occasion and, though we are thankful for Zoom, which has kept us going in the last months, it was so good to be with real people in a real building.

We now move forward in the next 3 months with joint services alternating between both churches. We are also having some limited opening for individual prayer and meditation. Everything is open for anyone to come; Covid rules apply, of course, so the maximum capacity of both churches is 40 people.

As restrictions ease in June, we will hope to do more and start holding events again.

Meanwhile we enjoy the outdoors with the Wild churchyard at St Mary’s blooming with primroses and buzzing with bees – yes, we have a beehive!  It is always open to the public so come and take a look.

Lockdown 2

You won’t need me to tell you that we are going into lockdown again! Just 2 weeks before the start of the 5 Cathedrals Walk and I can’t leave home for a month, at least. Well, that’s the way it is and am I downhearted? No! Adapt and find something better is my motto – not a very snappy motto, but it works for me. So, the walk is now rescheduled for Lent 2021 when, hopefully, Covid will be on the decline and life is moving on again.

Meanwhile back at the church we will be open twice a week for private prayer and what better place can you think of for that!

Behind the scenes a lot of change is going on in the Totton Team churches, a reorganisation of the parish and retirements and recruitments among the clergy. Our Rector, Chris Steed, retired on 31st October. He will be sorely missed. As this poem relates:

Verses on the Sad Departure of the Revd. Chris Steed

We say farewell to our Rector today
and I have been told to have something to say;
something nice, not a sermon or boring report,
but witty they said, and just keep it short.
Keep it decent and warm, but pithy and fun
so we won’t be all cringing when you are done.

They gave me a list of what to avoid –
Don’t talk of Archdeacons or you’ll get him annoyed,
and mention of Bishops will cause a right mess
unless you’re referring to smart moves in chess.
Don’t speak of his habits, like being er.. sometimes late,
held up in Totton by the crossing gate,
and never describe him, for heaven’s sake
as a scoffer of biscuits, cream teas and cake!

No, that would be wrong. So I won’t, never fear,
but I’ll tell you instead why we hold him so dear,
this Reverend, this Doctor, for that is his status
where he floats in his learned cumulostratus,
for that’s not the man we see here on Sundays,
holding the gospel, glowing with praise
for the Lord God our Father. He speaks from the heart,
from knowledge, experience, each sermon is art.
In his voice, in his eyes, his faith is implicit
and complete with the joy of the Holy Spirit.

And his sermons are short. For which we are grateful.
Yes, he deserves cake, ladies, give him a plateful.

So, keeping it short, just as I’ve been told to –
I speak for St Mary’s – and now I give you
As I draw to a close, make this sad farewell end,
The Reverend Chris Steed, our priest and our friend.

Getting Fit

I have done some long walks before, the South West Coast Path, the Cotswold Way, and the South Downs Way, so while not filled with trepidation at the thought of a 200 mile trek, I am very aware that I need to be fit, uninjured and mentally up for the challenge. I know how to walk and have been doing 10000 steps a day most days so instead of distance walking I’ve been swimming 4 days a week which is about 3 hours in the pool. Totton Health & Leisure now operates a Covid safe system where you book your swim times and keep your distance from other swimmers. I’ve found that a steady breast stroke round and round the pool is perfect for general bodily fitness, protecting against injury and, most importantly, keeping mentally well. It’s a floating meditation and I always finish with a feeling of wellbeing.

So, three weeks to go, and my main worry is how many people will sponsor me and how much I can raise. I can’t do much about that, so I’m going to stop thinking about it and think about the reasons why I want to do this instead. Apart from the obvious one of raising money for a really worthwhile cause, of course.

People have probably always gone on pilgrimages ( and still do, of course). Wikipedia says this, ‘A pilgrimage is a journey, often into an unknown or foreign place, where a person goes in search of new or expanded meaning about their self, others, nature, or a higher good, through the experience. It can lead to a personal transformation, after which the pilgrim returns to their daily life.’

I couldn’t put it better myself. Let’s see what happens!

Five Cathedrals and Sore Feet

The easy bit was thinking up the Sanctuary Church project – now it’s time to make it a reality and that means fundraising, big time. So, the next bit of thinking came up with a fundraising charity walk and, as the person with this good idea, I thought, ok, I’d better do it then.

I am Graham Norman, 72 years old, churchwarden at St Mary’s and I do like walking. But this can’t be a just stroll in the countryside if I want people to give generously – and I do. No, it needs to be a long walk of some significance and foot-suffering so that people know I mean business about raising this money. And it needs to be significant to me as well to give me the incentive and will power to do it.

My first idea was to walk from Winchester to Canterbury along the Pilgrim’s Way, the footpaths of St Swithun’s Way and the North Downs Way. Then the idea of visiting cathedrals on the way slipped into my mind. Then I thought of logistics and cost and where I would sleep at night; I’m far to old and wimpish to sleep outdoors even in summer. Then I remembered that I was born in Kent, Gillingham, to be exact, but had never been back and how I came back to Christianity through visiting cathedrals, Ely, Lincoln and York, and how I’ve had a lifelong love of old churches, which is probably why I’m so involved at St Mary’s Eling now. The result of this meandering river of thought is this 200 mile walk:

I shall start from Whitstable on the north Kent coast, where we can make a base and stay with relatives. I will start the walk with a pilgrimage to Canterbury along the quaintly named Crab & Winkle Way. Its 14 miles there and back and a good starting day walk. I shall then set out along the Saxon Shore Way to Rochester, calling on my birthplace, Gillingham. Rochester is home to my second cathedral. From there it’s the North Downs Way to Guildford Cathedral and on to Farnham where the route becomes the St Swithun’s Way. This is home territory and the next cathedral is Winchester, where I expect the streets to be lined with flag waving supporters. Then it’s onwards to Salisbury spire via the Clarendon Way. That’s it with cathedrals; the last bit of the walk will be along the Avon Valley Way to Downton and then over to Romsey for prayers in the Abbey, and where I will join the Test Way all the way to St Mary the Virgin Eling Hill. I hope to arrive on Advent Sunday, 29th November 2020, exactly a year after the launch of the Sanctuary Church project at St Mary’s.

That will be 200 miles in a fortnight. In November. I have a stout stick, made by Richard the keeper of the tollbridge at Eling Mill, and a strong desire to succeed. My feet are fine – so far. Please follow this blog with me all the way to Eling Hill.