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In the footsteps of Peter, Paul and Francis... 

It would be easy to write a Christian travelogue of our pilgrimage, but Di, Gaye, Pauline and Ian felt it would convey more if we expressed what we gained from the Pilgrimage.  So we arrived in Rome by modern transport and to our guest house, Casa Santa Lucia for five nights of our stay in Rome, a city where the ancient and the modern, the medieval and the baroque exist cheek by jowl, and yet seem to present an harmonious whole, a time of reflection on our own faith journey as we entered into following Peter, Paul and Francis.  Our guide for the whole trip was Chiara who succeeded in keeping the disparate group together and in order with her genuine humour and enthusiasm.

We had all wanted to visit Rome for a long time and the Pilgrimage to Rome and Assisi gave us the opportunity to fulfil this ambition. The experience was everything we had hoped for . . . and more! Not expecting Rome to be so green, with many beautiful trees softening the landscape.  On the other side, Rome was so busy that most of the time it felt like we were tourists.  It was a city of incredible contrasts and there was too much to take in in such a short time.  Our short drive up the Appian Way, the route Peter and Paul would have taken when entering Rome and to the Catacomb of Domitilla and the burial chambers of the early Christians.  17km of tunnels and the deepest more than 20m below today’s street level, cool and quiet and quite challenging being amongst our Christian ancestors.  Bishop Michael took the Eucharist of the Resurrection deep in the Catacomb and one felt humbled by the moment.  Our daily Eucharist with Bishop Michael, throughout the pilgrimage, taking different themes from our journey allowed us time to reflect on what we had seen and heard.

Pilgrimage1Then through the walls into the city past St. Paul’s gate where he is believed to have entered Rome.  There were many more moving experiences: being so close to the Pope who in his address spoke about the ‘bland mediocrity of life without Jesus’; being made aware of the suffering which took place in the Coliseum; the overwhelming beauty of basilicas, visiting too many in such a short time; at our visit to the Anglican Centre the Lampadusa Cross made from the shattered remains of one of the boats bringing refugees to Italy, reminding us of the suffering of so many; the quiet reverence of so many people in these sacred places.

The calm of our centrally situated guesthouse was a welcome oasis at the end of physically demanding, sometimes emotionally draining but always wonderfully fulfilling days.  

We visited the Basilica of St Paul Outside the Walls. Massive, so beautiful, a poem of gold, marble and art. Artists, Pilgrimage2craftsmen and sculptors all using their skills to give a glimpse of the glory of God. Then, to find near the entrance a small relief carving of two hands behind prison bars, one hand gripping a bar, and the other outstretched with the wound made by the nails. Below was the inscription “I was in prison and you visited me” Matt 25:36. Such a contrast, perhaps it represented two sides of our faith – worship and service.


Another highlight was being able to join the community of Sant’Egidio at the Basilica of Santa Maria in Trastevere, founded on Prayer, Poor and Peace and the incredible work they do in 70 countries.  It makes you realise how far a comfortable modern middle class Christian is from the total commitment we saw there.

SomewPilgrimage2ahat exhausted we left Rome, Peter and Paul and headed north to Umbria and Francis. The rugged countryside of Umbria provided a stunning backdrop to the olive groves and vineyards as we made our way to Assisi. We stopped en route in Orvieto, perched high on a cliff edge once the centre of Etruscan civilisation.  Up into the medieval part of the city and the stunning Gothic Cathedral.  

Then to the Church of St Maria degli Angeli (Chapel of Our Lady of the Angels) outside Assisi where St. Francis built the small hut which lies inside it.  
 


Pilgrimage4

Our time in Assisi was not exactly relaxing but did allow more time for reflection. As we stood beside the Roman pillars in the main square wondering if, perhaps, St Francis or St Clare had stood at that very same spot! Learning about the sacrificial lives of these two servants of God reminded us of the privileges of our lives as we seek to serve Him.  As Gaye expressed it
“Assisi fulfilled a desire I have had for nearly 70 years. As a child in Selborne, my grandfather used to take me into the church to see the stained glass window depicting St Francis feeding the birds.  I now felt I was a pilgrim at last, I had time just to “be” in God’s presence, away from the noise of the city, for me this was a “thin place” – where earth and heaven touch.”

Sunday was our last day and the Anglican community of St. Leonard’s welcomed us for their Sunday communion.  A mixture of many nationalities leading to a very moving moment; the Lord’s Prayer said in each person’s own language, perhaps truly speaking in tongues. 

Then our pilgrimage in Italy was over, in the coach as we left Assisi we all sang “Laudate omnes gentes, laudate Dominum” (Sing praises, all you peoples, sing praises to the Lord).  Alleluia.

Pilgrimage5aLearning about oneself is part of the pilgrimage experience. We really appreciated the friendship and support given by our fellow pilgrims as we worshipped together and shared many experiences, some of which were spiritual, some emotional, some exciting and many were great fun!  

Finally a huge thank you to Bishop Michael, for his total commitment and support, his very much needed spiritual guidance and historical knowledge as we journeyed and his enormous sense of humour.
    
The Pilgrims:
Gaye Reynolds
Diane Clack,
Ian Senior
Pauline Senior
Rt. Rev. Michael Langrish

 

 

 

Bishop Richard visits St Mary's in his Prayer Pilgrimage

We were very pleased to welcome Bishop Richard as he visited us on the morning of Friday 18th May.  Bishop Richard led a short service of prayer and lit a candle at St Mary's as part of his prayer pilgrimage.  

Bishop Richards Prayer Pilgrimage
Bishop Richard's prayer pilgrimage took place from May 14 - 18 when he made his way across the diocese from Iden East Sussex to Chichester Cathedral visiting 50 parishes along the way.  Every parish he visited made great efforts to welcome Bishop Richard and the cancles that were lit at each church  were taken to the Thy Kingdom Come Beacon event at Chichester Cathedral where they were lit in a final gesture of the Holy Spirit at Pentecost. 

 

The Art of Guitar

MarkJennings

On the evening of 16th June 2018 we were lucky enough to be treated to a very memorable evening of guitar music in St Mary's church, courtesy of the very talented Mark Jennings.  Some familiar music and some less familiar but all played with great skill and to the enjoyment of those who filled the church for the event, accompanied by drinks and nibbles!  Thank you to all who put time and enrgy into organising the concert. 

Wines for Summer Drinking

Those of you who joined us for our recent wine tasting evening on 25th May will know what great fun we had!  Around 40 people attended and the event was a great success, with lots of animated conversations around the tables and many new aquaintances made.  A variety of summer wines were enjoyed so we are now all set up for some enjoyable lunches! 

Thanks go to our host Richard Strickland and his wife Jean for their considerable efforts in creating such a successful event.  Thanks also to Chantal Durban-Jackson for her hard work and support. 

 

 

An Historic Ceremony at St Mary’s

At 10.00 on Friday 16th February, on a quite beautiful sunny morning, some 80 parishioners and friends gathered to witness the Consecration of the new extension to our churchyard. The ceremony was performed by the Rt. Rev Mark Sowerby, Bishop of Horsham, supported by the vicar Rev Tim Ward.

Churchyard

 

  

 

 

 

 

 In his opening remarks, the Bishop reminded us how the church building and churchyard, which have existed for close on 1,000 years, provide us with a link with past and future generations. Two days earlier was Ash Wednesday when we were reminded of our earthly mortality. All of us are “part of an incomplete history.”

The churchwardens, Jean Strickland and Steven Phillips, then read out the formal Petition asking the bishop to formally consecrate the piece of land, which would be set apart from all “common and profane uses”. The Bishop pronounced and signed the dedication and called on a blessing from “our God of heaven and earth”.
 
The Bishop and Rev Ward then led the gathering in procession to the centre of the new extension: we prayed for the faithful departed and, as we enthusiastically sang the hymn All creatures of our God and King, the bishop visited each corner of the land where he marked the ground with a cross, using his ceremonial staff.  

Following a final prayer and blessing, the congregation – who had been in excellent voice – crossed the road to enjoy sumptuous cakes, tea and coffee in the Pavilion. They came from every corner of our community making this a day to remember. Rev Ward gave a vote of thanks to all those who had contributed to the occasion in any way.

And our special thanks to Peter without whose determination and tenacity the purchase of the Churchyard extension would not have happened!