From Philip, our Vicar

Dear all
A happy New Year to you all!  On Wednesday I was taking down the Christmas lights from our garden, including the ones on the roadside railings which have lit up with the word ‘HOPE’ throughout the Christmas season.  Lots of people were doing the same thing this week – dismantling Christmas lights and decorations – packing them away for another year.
What a lot of people were probably not doing was putting lights back up again!  I was… 
Thursday 6th January, or 12th night, is both the traditional end of Christmas (and therefore supposedly ‘bad luck’ should decorations remain beyond) and also the day of Epiphany.  Epiphany being the day Christians celebrate the arrival of the Wise Men / Magi / Three Kings at the scene of the nativity.  I always feel sorry for them as they arrive to find us all busily packing everything away.  Have they missed the party?  Or rather is it us who have left prematurely?  I think it is the latter…
But there is another way to look at it.  The LED lights may go out, the trees may come down, the dancing Santa goes back in the box – but the light shines ON!  The light goes from being the light of a moment to the light of life within us all – the light that those early travelers follow leads them not just to the stable – but also onwards on a new journey.  A journey lived in the truth and the light of Jesus – and that never gets packed away.
And so on Thursday new lights lit up on my railings – a star and the word ‘JOURNEY’.  We journey on now in the presence and love of Jesus, born to us not for a moment but for all time.  That truth changes us (and well it should!), and it presents us with a new reality in familiar surroundings.  At the end of this email you will see a poem from T S Eliot that beautifully encapsulates this reality.  How does witnessing the birth of Jesus change you?
A New Year? 
I can scarcely believe that we are starting 2022 still under the shadow of the pandemic.  It is two years ago now that we started to realise that the world was about to change.
Please continue to take the utmost care in your day to day travels.  We do have COVID in our midst and I am aware of a number of church members in the Benefice at the moment who are either recently diagnosed or recovering.  It is imperative we all look out for each other and are confident that we are not introducing new contagion.  If you are in any doubt please do consider taking a Lateral Flow Test before attending gatherings.
It continues to be a legal requirement to wear masks when in church, unless you are specifically exempt.  It is a strong recommendation that we all maintain good social distancing at this time.  If you are exempt from face masks please do be particularly careful about your social space, not just for your own safety – but also for those around you.  
We have taken the difficult decision to suspend Toddlers and Wild Church in January, but Sunday services will continue as they were before Christmas.
This Sunday
8am Book of Common Prayer Holy Communion – St Stephen’s, Winsham.  Rev’d Judith
10am Holy Communion – St Michael and All Angels, Chaffcombe.  Rev’d Philip
10am Morning Worship – St Mary’s, Thorncombe.  Lay led.  
A poem to ponder on in this season of Epiphany:
The Journey of the Magi – T S Eliot
“A cold coming we had of it,
Just the worst time of the year
For a journey, and such a long journey:
The ways deep and the weather sharp,
The very dead of winter.”
And the camels galled, sore-footed, refractory,
Lying down in the melting snow.
There were times we regretted
The summer palaces on slopes, the terraces,
And the silken girls bringing sherbet.
Then the camel men cursing and grumbling
And running away, and wanting their liquor and women,
And the night-fires going out, and the lack of shelters,
And the cities hostile and the towns unfriendly
And the villages dirty and charging high prices:
A hard time we had of it.
At the end we preferred to travel all night,
Sleeping in snatches,
With the voices singing in our ears, saying
That this was all folly.
Then at dawn we came down to a temperate valley,
Wet, below the snow line, smelling of vegetation;
With a running stream and a water-mill beating the darkness,
And three trees on the low sky,
And an old white horse galloped away in the meadow.
Then we came to a tavern with vine-leaves over the lintel,
Six hands at an open door dicing for pieces of silver,
And feet kicking the empty wine-skins.
But there was no information, and so we continued
And arriving at evening, not a moment too soon
Finding the place; it was (you may say) satisfactory.
All this was a long time ago, I remember,
And I would do it again, but set down
This set down
This: were we led all that way for
Birth or Death? There was a birth, certainly,
We had evidence and no doubt. I had seen birth and death,
But had thought they were different; this Birth was
Hard and bitter agony for us, like Death, our death.
We returned to our places, these Kingdoms,
But no longer at ease here, in the old dispensation,
With an alien people clutching their gods.
I should be glad of another death.
Blessings all

The Reverend Philip Butcher
Rector – Two Shires Benefice (Tatworth, Thorncombe, Winsham, Chaffcombe & Cricket Malherbie)
The Vicarage
3 Home Farm
TA20 2SH
01460 221286
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