Dear all

It has been a little while since my last e-letter, for which many apologies and is purely down to sparse desk time since Easter!
This Sunday (tomorrow) brings around one of my favourite Bible readings – John 15:1-8.  Here it is:
“I am the true vine, and my Father is the gardener.  He cuts off every branch in me that bears no fruit, while every branch that does bear fruit he prunes so that it will be even more fruitful.  You are already clean because of the word I have spoken to you.  Remain in me, as I also remain in you. No branch can bear fruit by itself; it must remain in the vine. Neither can you bear fruit unless you remain in me. “I am the vine; you are the branches. If you remain in me and I in you, you will bear much fruit; apart from me you can do nothing.  If you do not remain in me, you are like a branch that is thrown away and withers; such branches are picked up, thrown into the fire and burned.  If you remain in me and my words remain in you, ask whatever you wish, and it will be done for you.  This is to my Father’s glory, that you bear much fruit, showing yourselves to be my disciples.”
Many years ago I was on a retreat day in Exeter Cathedral being led by the then Bishop of Exeter, +Robert Atwell.  This was the passage that he used as the theme for the day, and preached on three times (not the address each time!) during the day.  It was brilliant and it has stuck with me.  But what was really striking was that he was able to get into the heart of the meaning of the passage because of his own deep spiritual understanding of what it was to care for a plant.  For before he was in public ordained ministry +Robert was a monk and his key responsibility in the monastery was in the garden.
One of the things that this passage lays bear, and will be immediately obvious to anyone who is involved in horticulture, is that in looking after plants for their optimum health does not just require removal and pruning of the bits that are no good – but very often also cutting back, or doing other seemingly ‘countercultural’ things, to what is essentially healthy plants!  I remember +Robert describing how he had to severely prune back some healthy vines because if he had not done so the whole plant was at risk of dying.  It did not feel right at the time, but come the following year and onwards the plant was even healthier and more fruitful.
We can apply this passage to so many areas of our lives – particularly when we are feeling overwhelmed.  What is fruitful?  What is not?  Where do I need to apply my metaphorical secateurs?  Am I brave enough to contemplate cutting back things that might feel ok – but actually could be even better with some TLC?
Perhaps spend some time with this passage, reading it through a few times in some quiet space – alert to the words and phrases that jump out to you.  What is God saying to you?
Sunday 28 April:
8am – Holy Communion; St John’s, Tatworth
10am – Holy Communion and APCM; St Mary’s, Thorncombe
6:30pm – BCP Evening Prayer; St Michael & All Angels, Chaffcombe
Tuesday 30 April:
9:30am – Morning Prayer; St John’s, Tatworth
2pm – APCM; St Mary Magdalene, Cricket Malherbie
Sunday 5th May:
8am – BCP Holy Communion; Forde Abbey
10am – Holy Communion & APCM; St Stephen’s, Winsham
1030am (for 11am worship) – Emmaus Service, St John’s, Tatworth
Tuesday 7th May:
9:30am – Morning Prayer, Tatworth
Wednesday 8th May:
11am – Holy Communion; St John’s, Tatworth
Thursday 9th May:
7pm – ASCENSION DAY SERVICE – St Stephen’s, Winsham
We hold in our prayers all those we know who are ill or struggling in any way, and we are asked to pray by name for the following.  If you would like to add someone, or yourself, to this list, then please do get in touch.
Margaret Bandy, Dave Boyland, Andrew De-pury, Ann Jarvis, David Arnold, Nicola Cunningham.
In memoriam:
We remember in our prayers all those whom we love but see no longer.  Particularly at this time we remember Billy Edwards, Keith Portsmore, Alastair McArthur, Sheila Holloway, and all their friends and families in their time of mourning.
Collect for this Sunday:
Risen Christ,
your wounds declare your love for the world
and the wonder of your risen life:
give us compassion and courage
to risk ourselves for those we serve,
to the glory of God the Father.
With every blessing
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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