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

Pastoral Letters


“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!



Dear friends

The Advent season, with all its many carol services, Nativity plays, and inevitable shopping on top of already full lives, invites us to count the days in a spirit of watchful waiting. Against the restless busyness of the world around us, Christians have good reason to slow down, to practise patience, and to cherish with quiet expectancy and prayerfulness the wonder that will unfold. For that reason, I’m holding another Advent Oasis Evening in mid-December. Here is the opportunity to put everything to one side, just for a couple of hours, and focus on preparing our hearts to receive the greatest gift of them all. If you aren’t able to come (and space is limited!), then you might like to consider some of these ideas.

It’s an appropriate time to reflect on the people in your life who are special gifts to you. Perhaps you could choose just one of them and thank and affirm them for what they mean to you by sending a special letter, card or email.

As we prepare to receive gifts as well as The Gift, perhaps you could give something material that you hold dear to someone else, without any strings attached? You could also perhaps give away something non-material which you cherish and give that away, with no strings attached.

As you reflect on all the ways that God has been generous specifically to you, and as you give away some of what really matters to you, then hold this in prayer that no one ever becomes poor by giving.

With every blessing for a fruitful Advent season and joyous Christmas,Maggie