The United Parish of
Chinnor, Aston Rowant, Sydenham & Crowell

Pastoral Letters


Dear Friends

Getting used to the intensity and pace of life as an ordained minister does take some getting used to. It’s like nothing I’ve ever experienced before, not in a negative way, just in a very different way.

It turns out that I’m required to make an annual retreat, this is something that the Church mandates and, as I’m getting ready to leave for my retreat, I’m aware of the wisdom of this. I’m aware that I need to pause, to catch my breath and reflect on the first nine months of my ordained ministry.There is joy and excitement to being in a parish as busy as ours, but it is very easy to get caught in the whirl of busy-ness, in the permanent need for immediacy.

So, here I am packing to head to North Wales to a retreat house called St Beuno’s for a five-day silent retreat. I’m really looking forward to sinking into that silence.

The outward silence of a retreat like this is all about trying to foster an inner silence, to allow our minds to be quietened.Our minds are so very busy, and this is exactly what the mind is designed to do.God has given us our minds to run our lives, to make sure the outward stuff of life keeps going.The thing is, though, our minds are so good at doing this job that it can become permanently engaged in trying to solve everything, trying to second guess what’s going on, trying to make sure we’ve got everything covered. The danger of an overactive mind is that it can distract us from what is going on in our hearts and obscure what it is our soul is asking of us. It’s also just plain tiring to always be thinking hard – did you know that the brain is the organ that uses the most energy?

I know that I’m extraordinarily blessed to have the kind of job that mandates an annual retreat.But really this quietening of the mind shouldn’t be a once a year event. It’s something that we all should try and practice daily. Recognition of this is why Mindfulness courses and yoga classes are popular.A simple but incredibly effective way of quietening your mind is focus on your breath.Try it now:just take three long slow deep breaths, giving all your attention and focus to breathing those three breaths. These three breaths can be extended to three minutes or however much time as you have. I actually find counting my breath very helpful and it gives my always-wants-to-busy mind just enough to do.I count silently to five as I breathe in, and five as I breathe out.Experiment and find what works for you to create a daily mini retreat.

Wishing you all inner quiet and peace,


Curate to the United Parish of Chinnor, Sydenham, Aston Rowant and Crowell.


Dear friends

Statistics about the Church of England, indeed for most of the Christian churches, simply do not reflect the reality: ours is certainly a vibrant and extremely busy parish. It may disappoint some people that none of our four churches bulge with people at Sunday services every week, but for many, church happens at other times of the week. For example, over 400 children attend our Open The Book assemblies every week which re-enact a Bible story, have a short meditation and prayer, the Lord’s Prayer and a hymn - rather like a family service, and there is also a sizeable congregation at Hempton Field care home.

It’s the season for planning weddings and baptisms (I’ve twice been called about these services whilst writing this!) Perhaps it’s surprising, if we take too much notice of statistics, that young people still want to be married in a church and still want to have their children baptized. What I do notice, though, is that although parents are baptized themselves, they usually don’t have any knowledge of confirmation. This means that there are many attending services who haven’t made adult declarations of faith, however unsure or questioning they might be.

A service of confirmation only comes around in the Parish once a year, and our date this year is Sunday 13th May. There is still time to think about this and make yourself known to me should you want to make your declaration. It involves a short course, which people in the past have found illuminating, encouraging and helpful.

Once confirmed, the adult is fully part of the Church and may receive Holy Communion. This Eastertide when we celebrate the Lord’s resurrection, why wouldn’t we want to receive Him into our whole person and take our place with all God’s people in response to the knowledge that God calls us all by name (Isaiah 43.7) and longs for a closer relationship with us (Romans 5.8)?

Winter has been long and it may be one of those years when we seem to move straight from winter to summer, but whatever the temperature and precipitation, life is bursting all around us: flowers are blooming and trees are beginning to look greener. I hope you enjoy the milder weather, but I also hope that you’ll see something of Easter as you get out into your gardens or enjoy a walk in the sunshine. This seems to be an apt quote to leave you with: “Our Lord has written the promise of resurrection, not in books alone, but in every leaf in springtime.” (Martin Luther)

He is risen! Alleluia!

Happy Easter and every blessing



Dear Friends

Have you noticed that Easter is never on time?It’s early or its late – but never on time!

Easter is calculated as the Sunday after the first full moon (known as the Paschal Moon) after the Spring Equinox (21 March).

The fact that the moon that occurs at this time of year is known as the Paschal Moon points us towards the Jewish roots of Easter.In our western Christian society, “Paschal” now refers to Easter but originally, within a Jewish context, it meant Passover.Jesus” last supper is generally considered to be a Passover meal, and the Passover too is calculated based on the moon around the spring equinox. This calculation is not done in quite the same way as Easter, however, because Christians have adjusted things so that the day we celebrate the resurrection of Jesus is always on a Sunday.

Easter Sunday can occur anywhere between 22nd March and 25th April. So, by my reckoning, the only date that Easter can be “on time” is if it falls on either 8th or 9th April.Either side of this mid-point means Easter must be either early or late.The last Easter to be “on time” was in 2012, and our next “on time” Easter won’t take place until 2023.All this discussion of dates and moons and our perception of time confirms what Dr Who explains about time: “People assume that time is a strict progression of cause to effect, but actually ... it’s more like a big ball of wibbly-wobbly, timey-wimey... stuff.”It is just complicated!

This year Easter Sunday is on 1st April.For many, therefore, it is deemed to have “come early”.The Paschal Moon will occur on Saturday 31st March, and because this is the second full moon in March, it will also be a Blue Moon.There was also a Blue Moon in January this year, so maybe we should currently be more cautious about describing something as “once in a blue moon”!

And this year the date of Easter is interesting for two other reasons.Ash Wednesday, the beginning of our journey towards Easter, fell on Valentine’s Day, and Easter Sunday itself is on April Fool’s Day.Perhaps these days are perfectly apt.The miracle of Christ’s resurrection may seem, to some, a foolish thing in which to believe.But to us, as Christians, who know of God’s incredible power and grace, and most importantly, of his unconditional love, this miracle of Easter is far from foolish.It is deeply moving.

With Love and Light



Dear Friends

If you have been trying to reach me by ‘phone since December you’ll know that I haven’t yet been connected to BT in the new Rectory. As this has also affected Broadband and the mobile signal is weak my internet connection has been annoyingly spasmodic too. Many apologies if I have been slow to respond, or worse, haven’t been able to respond to your message at all. Just maybe by the time the magazine is made available I’ll have my line back! Meanwhile Louise is doing all she can to relay any messages to me that find their way into the church office.

All of this difficulty in communication has reminded me just how vital being able to talk to people is and how having that voice removed to an extent is frustrating and paralysing. By coincidence the Lent course this year is based on the themes contained in the film ‘The Kings Speech’, which, as you may know, focuses on King George VI’s painful impediment. Those of you who enjoyed Shawshank redemption’ and discussing the themes of those films over previous, years, will also enjoy this course. Details of when I’ll be showing he film and when the discussion sessions will be held are contained elsewhere in this magazine.

Bishop Steven is encouraging us all to reflect upon being a ‘Contemplative, Compassionate and Courageous’ Church. It can sometimes take a lot of courage to say what we want to say to another person and that can apply to our prayer as well. Prayer goes in two directions, we might be cautious about taking something to God because we aren’t sure what the response will be. However God will always listen to us with compassion. He loves us and wants to be involved in our lives.

To encourage you to perhaps go a little deeper into your prayer life and to reflect on your faith journey. Jacky Des and I are making ourselves available through Lent to meet with those who’d like to take an hour to reflect of their journey. No one will be forced to share anything they don’t want to and anything said will be treated confidentially. This will be new to many, but those who have done it before will know that speaking to another about their journey can be deeply rewarding. Will you take a courageous step and rise to the challenge?

If you are unable to participate in the Lent group and feel that an hour of reflection isn’t for you, then you may prefer to pray this prayer through Lent instead:

Loving, compassionate Lord, hear my prayer for the life and ministry of this parish. Give me eyes that notice the distress of others, ears that listen attentively, a heart that cares and hands that reach out to nurture and to heal. Remove my heart of stone and the certainty that I can do things in my own strength, and grant me the humility to turn to you in prayer. You have conquered my greatest fear; fill me with the courage to act for the sake of your Kingdom. Lord my God, make me the compassionate, contemplative and courageous person you would have me be, in the power of the Holy Spirit and with your Son as my model and guide. I ask this through Christ the Lord.Amen

Every blessing for a more contemplative, compassionate and courageous Lenten journey. Maggie


“What exactly is a New Year’s Resolution?”

“It’s a to do list for the first week of January.”(Angus and Phil cartoon)

New Years Resolutions…you may be at the point of deciding which resolutions are manageable and which were the result of over enthusiasm.

A resolution that I make just about every year is to get up an hour earlier – I’m convinced that this will somehow mean that I will get 25 hours in a day, but it doesn’t take long before the horror of losing an hour of sleep means this resolution consistently fails!The resolution of going to bed an hour earlier hasn’t yet made it onto my list.

New Year’s resolutions have a long history, much longer than our ongoing annual attempts. According to the (hopefully reliable) source that is Wikipedia, roughly four thousand years ago the Babylonians committed to return any borrowed objects and to pay their debts at the start of each New Year.During the Jewish New Year reflecting on any wrongdoings over the year and seeking and offering forgiveness is encouraged – a practice that possibly started during the Israelite Exodus from Egypt, about 3000 years ago.

The Romans began their New Year by making promises to the god Janus, and this is the god that the month of January is named after. By Medieval times, the knights of old took what was called the peacock vow at the end of the Christmas season, to re-affirm their commitment to chivalry.

Inspired by the Moravian Christians, the founder of the Methodist church, John Wesley commissioned what became known as Watch Night Services 1740.This is a service held on New Year’s Eve to give Christians the opportunity to reaffirm their covenant with God, as well as praying for the year ahead and making resolutions.

The theme of self-improvement is evident in even these few examples of ancient New Year resolution making, a tradition that we continue to be drawn to today. As you decide which of your resolutions are to be kept and which to let go, I leave you with the beginning of this prayer from Reinhold Niebuhr,

God grant me the serenity
to accept the things I cannot change;
courage to change the things I can;
and wisdom to know the difference.

With Love and Prayers for a wonderful 2018!