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April 2020 – Magazine on-line
THANKFUL PEOPLE, COME!
(Liturgical Hymns Old & New 226)
I have just been to my local Co-op to do a bit of shopping, but I could find only a fraction of the things on my shopping list, and many shelves were bare. ‘People have been going mad, and it’s so silly and so selfish’, a member of staff told me.
The panic buying in response to the Coronavirus crisis, made me think back to the calmer and, what seems to me, the more civilised days of my childhood. Back in the late 1940s and early 1950s we still had rationing and shortages, in the aftermath of the Second World War.
My family lived in New Cross at the time, and our food shopping was mostly done at what was called the ‘Home & Colonial Stores’ (what a lovely quaint old name to modern ears!) in New Cross Road. On one occasion a neighbour knocked at our door and said to my mum, ‘Chris! The Home & Colonial have got custard creams!’ And so my mum, my sister and I hurried excitedly up Clifton Hill and along to the shop, and joined the queue to buy custard creams.
Can you imagine it, actually queuing for biscuits?
This distant memory made me wonder, once the current Coronavirus crisis is over, if the whole experience will make us more thankful, more grateful, for those simple everyday items which we have taken for granted for so long? The loo rolls, the handwash, disinfectants and cleaning materials, paper kitchen towels, frozen foods, canned goods, dried pasta, rice, bread, bottled water, and so on.
Only time will tell……..
CHURCH RESTORATION PROJECT
Readers will have noticed that trees and shrubs in the church garden have been cut back. This was to make way for the scaffolding to be erected, ready for restoration work to begin in April.
Small trees growing against the church have been removed completely and their roots destroyed as they were causing damage to the fabric of the building. Shrubs, capable of re-generation have been hard pruned so they can grow up again in time.
When all repair work is finished, consideration will be given to replanting the garden.
Note: Due to the Coronavirus, we are now not sure when work will begin!
In the last two issues of this magazine we have included articles on Octavia Hill and Canon Hardwicke Rawnsley, two of the three co-founders of that great treasure of our nation, the National Trust. And so finally, this time we can read about the third member of the group, Sir Robert Hunter (1844-1913).
The following article, which appeared in the Spring 2020 issue of the National Trust members’ magazine, was written by Ben Cowell, Director-General of Historic Houses, who wrote the first biography of Robert Hunter while working at the National Trust.
‘Where his co-founders provided much of the fire and passion that drove the moment in its earliest years, lawyer and solicitor Robert Hunter turned that energy into legal reality.
I think of Robert Hunter as the inventor of the National Trust. He may have lacked the poetic words of Canon Hardwicke Rawnsley or the campaigning zeal of Octavia Hill, but he had the foresight to set something up that he knew would be needed by the nation, which until then nobody else had dreamt up. Without Robert, there wouldn’t have been a National Trust in the same way.
Despite this, Robert’s contribution is largely under-recognised. He was a different character from Octavia and Hardwicke, who were both very public figures. He was a modest man who didn’t seek the limelight, but he felt very passionately about heritage and open spaces.
Robert was born in London in 1844 and grew up a studious and serious young man. After university he became a lawyer and was quickly taken on by the newly formed Commons Preservation Society as their solicitor. He soon became the country’s expert on law relating to commons and open spaces, which were under real threat in the second half of the 19th century.
In 1882 Robert was made solicitor to the General Post Office, a role he held for the last 30 years of his life. He spent his weekends continuing to work for the Commons Preservation Society and advising people like Octavia Hill on their work in the protection of open spaces.
His and Octavia’s conversations about how to protect endangered places gave Robert the idea to set up the National Trust. In doing so, he created an organisation that could own places on behalf of the nation – a power other conservation organisations lacked. Once designated in Trust care, these places could not be mortgaged or sold.
Although the Trust was incredibly small, with just a scattering or properties and a few staff, Robert had big ambitions for what it could achieve. That the Trust is now one of the largest landowners in the country is down to his foresight in those early days.
The story goes that Octavia wrote to Robert proposing the name ‘The Commons and Gardens Trust’ and Robert replied to her suggesting the words ‘National Trust’. I think he knew it wouldn’t just be about commons and nice gardens, but could encompass all sorts of places. That’s why he ensured that the Trust’s purpose was written very broadly, to give it the powers to own whatever sort of places its trustees felt were of ‘Historic interest or Natural Beauty’.
His vision became a reality in 1895 when he, Octavia and Hardwicke formally established the Trust. As its first Chair, Robert was the legal force behind the National Trust Act of 1907 that put its constitution into an Act of Parliament. Although the Act has been amended at various points over time, its essence has never changed. The essential powers of the Trust to own places in an inalienable sense, for ever and for everyone, remain exactly as they were when he set it up.
Sadly, after a life dedicated to work, Robert died just a few months after leaving the Post Office and never enjoyed lengthy retirement walking the hills of his native Surrey.
I’m sure he would be amazed to see how the Trust has evolved. I think he’d have been particularly proud of the way it has preserved so many areas of common land and open spaces, free for anyone to access, which was his enduring passion.’
If you have read all three of these articles I think they provide a splendid example of how people of very different character, personality, gifts and skills, can by coming together achieve great things.
It reminds me of that vivid picture painted by St. Paul, of the Church being the Body of Christ, each of whose members is a different but equally important part of that body, with his or her own unique contribution to make to the functioning of the whole, and without whom the body is not complete and cannot achieve its objective. And as we sometimes say when we exchange the ‘Peace’ at Mass:
‘We are the body of Christ. In the one Spirit we were all baptised into one body. Let us then pursue all that makes for peace and builds up our common life…..’
Let us do so through the pooling of our gifts and talents, and with at least all the zeal and vision demonstrated by Octavia Hill, Hardwicke Rawnsley and Robert Hunter in their own special dream, which has made such a wonderful contribution to our national life. After all, the Christian ‘Trust’ is in God and his Kingdom, for all and for ever.
HOW DO YOU COUNT YOUR BLESSINGS?
‘The blessings of your father are greater than the blessings of the ancient mountains, the bounty of the everlasting hills!’ (Genesis 49:26)
At Easter, when Christians the world over celebrate the greatest event in the history of the world, my mind turned also to those ‘lesser celebrations’ in our lives, occasions when we have cause to be glad.
Last month’s parish magazine carried a photograph of Carol and Peter Ludlow celebrating their Ruby Wedding Anniversary, with prosecco and cake in church after Mass, so that we could all share and give thanks with them for their forty years of wedded bliss! They also had another celebration, for family and friends, at a tea shop in Crayford.
It made me think of my own Ruby Wedding Anniversary three years ago, which Sue and I celebrated privately, with a short break in the wonderfully romantic city of Venice, and another in the beautiful Renaissance city of Florence – where we had spent our honeymoon. Both breaks included delicious Italian food and wine, of course. Alas, such trips would not be possible at the present time, due to Coronavirus!
It’s interesting, isn’t it, how we are all different, and celebrate life’s milestones and other events in our own particular way – but that so many of our celebrations include food and drink in one way or another – such as prosecco and tea!
Yes, it does us good occasionally in life to pause and remember how much we have to celebrate – the many blessings and gifts that God so freely showers upon us. Sadly, such moments can be all too rare. More often than not, we lurch from one demand, one crisis, one responsibility to another, scarcely finding time to draw breath and reflect on the reasons we have to give thanks.
If we are not careful, we end up brooding on the things we haven’t got, and on the ‘slings and arrows of outrageous fortune’ which life throws at us. Sucked into a vicious circle of self-pity, the more sorry we feel for ourselves the more grounds there seem to be for such feelings.
We need to stop sometimes and, in the words of the old chorus, make time to ‘count our blessings’, for when we do that, life seems very different. There is so much that is not only good but indescribably wonderful, beautiful beyond words.
The quotation from Genesis, above, is concerned not with God’s blessing but with Jacob’s blessing to his sons, but the words could speak appropriately of all God has done for us.
So why not pause to consider such things and, far from feeling sorry for yourself, you might realise how much reason you have to give thanks.
And on that thought, with God’s blessing, perhaps Carol and Peter, Sue and I, can all look forward to celebrating our respective Golden Wedding anniversaries in due course of time……..
For, to use another Old Testament quotation: ‘A merry heart makes for a cheerful countenance, but a morose disposition crushes the spirit. Every day in life is wretched for the downtrodden, yet those with a cheerful heart feast continually.’ (Proverbs 15:13,15)
THE GOD WHO CANNOT BE KEPT DOWN
‘The next day, which was a Sabbath, the chief priests and the Pharisees met with Pilate and said, “Sir, we remember that while the liar was still alive he said ‘I will be raised to life three days later.’ Give orders, then, for his tomb to be carefully guarded until the third day, so that his disciples will not be able to go and steal the body, and then tell the people that he was raised from death. This last lie would be even worse than the first one.” Take a guard”, Pilate told them; “Go and make the tomb as secure as you can.” So they left and made the tomb secure by putting a seal on the stone and leaving the guard on watch.’ (Matthew 27:62-66 GNB)
For a while we used to have a lovely big toy hedgehog in our children’s corner in church. No matter how hard or how often you knocked it over, or dropped it from any angle, it would always bounce back upright again. Children (and adults) loved it. Then one day, a child ‘borrowed’ the hedgehog, and it was never seen in church again….
Unlike that hedgehog who was never seen again, there is certainly something of the ‘bounce back’ idea in the story of the Resurrection of Jesus, for we see there a supreme demonstration of the God who cannot be kept down. The enemies of Jesus had conspired together, determined finally to do away with him, and as his body was taken down, limp and lifeless, from the cross, and sealed in a tomb, they must have been convinced they had succeeded. Even then, they placed a guard outside the tomb, just to make sure. They were leaving nothing to chance.
Yet it didn’t matter, for the next day what did they find but the stone rolled away and the tomb empty, their worst fears realised. How could it be? What could have happened? Hatred had done its worst, but the love of God could not be kept down. Christ was risen! It’s as true today as ever; ultimately there is nothing and no one that can frustrate the will of God. Though many may still try and sometimes seem to succeed, ours is a God who will finally triumph, and who gives us the victory in turn.
Who would have believed two thousand years ago that the Gospel – the Good News of Jesus’ Resurrection, would still be changing lives all over the world? It is beyond his enemies’ worst nightmares and greater than his followers’ wildest dreams. Yet that is the nature of our God; the God who plunged himself into the depths of our world and ‘bounced back up’ again in such a way that the world would never be the same again. The great wonder of Easter is that we can hear its message again and again, yet it goes on being as true and relevant today as it was yesterday, and will be tomorrow and the next day, until the end of time.
That’s why Christians can always have a ‘bounce’ in our step!
WHEN I NEEDED A NEIGHBOUR, WERE YOU THERE?
Acute loneliness affects 800,000 people aged 65 and over. And men are less likely than women to admit they’re lonely. That’s why Age UK collaborated on a specialised two-year research project with Bristol University.
The study, ‘Older Men at the Margins’ focused on over 65s who felt lonely in older age. Understanding this problem is important as older men tend to keep their loneliness hidden. This study gave Age UK invaluable insight into various causes of loneliness; and crucially, how to provide life enhancing solutions.
Unfortunately, older men can find it more difficult to socialise. They may also be reluctant to ask for help because they feel they should be independent and self-reliant. If this is you, or reminds you of someone you know, please visit our website. You’ll find out more about the study’s results, and the ways Age UK can help alleviate loneliness in older age. www.ageuk.org.uk/men-and-loneliness.
[Source: Age UK]
The speaker at our March meeting was Don Ingrams and the talk was about “Bloodrunners”. Don used to be a part of the SERV Kent Bloodrunners team who are a charity that transports essential blood products and samples to accident and emergency hospitals across Kent, every night, weekend and bank holiday.
Other services the team provide include urgent breast milk delivery, home dialysis, renal samples and medication, and support to local hospices including Demelza and Ellenor.
One of their most important roles is to re-stock blood for the Kent, Surrey and Sussex Air ambulance at the scene of an incident.
All SERV Kent services are provided free of charge thanks to the dedicated team of volunteers.
They also attend events, to raise funds and increase public awareness. You’ll often find them at supermarket collections, Eurotunnel collections, talks, carnivals and marathon events.
The riders and drivers deliver each service using their own vehicles. They also pay for their own fuel.
Controllers are essential to the smooth operation of what they do. Their job is to take calls from the hospitals and dispatch the riders and drivers. They perform this vital role from their own home, receiving SERV Kent calls directly to their phone.
SERV Kent provides a service that has saved many lives!
I’m sure everyone enjoyed Don’s talk and he answered many questions too.