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The first bit (Gathering, collect and confession) was missed off the recording so the  the Sunday morning

service beginning is shown below



begin our service





Confession: The sacrifice acceptable to God is a broken spirit; a broken and contrite heart God will not despise. Let us come to the Lord, who is full of compassion and acknowledge our transgressions in penitence and faith.

Most merciful God, father of our Lord Jesus Christ, we confess that we have sinned in thought, word and deed. We have not loved you with our whole heart. We have not loved our neighbour as ourselves. In your mercy forgive what we have been, help us to amend what we are and direct what we shall be that we may do justly, love mercy and walk humbly with you, our God. Amen.





READING   Matthew 15: 21-28 read by Sally

Jesus went away to the district of Tyre and Sidon. A Canaanite woman from that region came out and started shouting, ‘Have mercy on me, Lord, Son of David; my daughter is tormented by a demon.’ But he did not answer her at all. And his disciples came and urged him, saying, ‘Send her away, for she keeps shouting after us.’ He answered, ‘I was sent only to the lost sheep of the house of Israel.’ But she came and knelt before him, saying, ‘Lord, help me.’ He answered, ‘It is not fair to take the children’s food and throw it to the dogs.’ She said, ‘Yes, Lord, yet even the dogs eat the crumbs that fall from their masters’ table.’ Then Jesus answered her, ‘Woman, great is your faith! Let it be done for you as you wish.‘ And her daughter was healed instantly.




Sermon      Very Reverend Christopher Armstrong

Face Masks

Sunday 16 August 2000


Face Masks

Face Masks are so irritating!  They tickle, they are suffocating especially in this hot weather but worst of all, they hide our faces and those with whom we speak. So much of our characters are expressed through facial expressions and we don’t see much of that behind a mask. We can easily misjudge a look when half of the face is covered.  Is that a scowl, a grimace or a smile? Perhaps that is what is happening in our reading today (Mt. 15. 21 – 28).  The woman who pleads with Jesus to heal her daughter is completely ignored by him.  What is going on behind that mask?

The colour of masks do not help much either. Some of the floral ones are quite attractive and may say something about their owner but the black ones are very menacing.  We could be forgiven for thinking that we are about to be attacked by Darth Vader!


Biblical Faces

In the bible the face was seen as a true representation of the whole person. Your face was you. It fully described your personality: grumpy, peaceful or happy. It was the great desire of the Israelites to seek God’s face in worship. So Moses goes up the mountain to speak to God face to face. The result was that his face shone so brightly that he had to put a veil over it so that the Israelites weren’t shocked. The angelic figures who accompanied God – the cherubim – had to cover their faces because the glory of God was too much to bear.

The early Christians inherited this view of God’s face.  But the face of God has now been revealed in the person of Jesus.  In the life of Christ we can see close up the attributes of God – a God who is generous, hoping the best for each one of us; a God who heals, who brings people together, who forgives us, picks us up and suffers for us. Paul speaks for us all when he says that we see God as in a mirror, dimly but we shall see him face to face. He also promises us that with unveiled faces we shall behold the glory of God and it will not be ruinous but magnificent. How I long for that experience for myself and for others! That is why we gather in beautiful buildings like this, tailor-made to glimpse the glory of God.  But we know too that the glory of God may also be glimpsed as we come face-to-face with the sick, the bereaved, the badly housed and those exhausted by giving themselves to others on the Coronavirus front-line.

If Jesus is the human face of God, then how many faces has God? The early Christians wrestled with this problem as they tried to explain their various understandings of God as Creator, Redeemer and Sanctifier.  Is that 3 people or one person who has 3 masks, faces, modes of being?  You wouldn’t believe the grief that such discussions caused! In the end The Church settled for the phrase “one substance” to include all three masks of God.  And this is not just an academic question.  In Lancashire where I come from, the Muslims find it very difficult to get their heads around our One God in 3 persons.





My father-in-law was a very good local GP. He was also an excellent DIY enthusiast and an engaging entertainer. After a day’s work in the surgery, he would throw off his suit and settle down to re-wire the house or change into a Dinner Jacket to host some medical event in town.  So was that the doctor, blaspheming under the eaves to sort out the fuse-box or the DIY expert entertaining an archbishop at the top table? We can usually cope with this confusion of roles and sometimes it is entertaining.  On one occasion, a rather otherworldly archiepiscopal guest leaned over to his medical host at dinner to complain about a sharp pain in his shoulder. The two of them retired to an anti-room and the archbishop slipped off his frock coat only to reveal a rather painful coat hanger still in place. Was the archbishop appealing to a generous host, to a DIY expert or to a doctor for help with his pain?

Similarly, with this woman whose daughter was ill in our reading today. Her pleas were ignored by Jesus.  We don’t know why.  Perhaps he was wearing his worried mask but she knew that was not the normal way which Jesus dealt with people, especially the sick. She was not rebuffed by what appeared to be a mask of pre-occupation. So she persevered and was rewarded for her faith, her love and her persistence.

There is a lesson for us here too.  Masks can deceive us.  What appears to be a rebuff from God or our neighbour may just be a hesitation. Our scriptures are filled with examples of those who persevere to see the face of God.  Think of the boy Samuel in the Temple, the man with the barren fig-tree, the woman caught in adultery, the raising of Lazarus and today, Marcus Rashford’s campaign for free school meals.

                “Teach me my God and King, in all things thee to see;”   (George Herbert)            






Bright the vision that delighted
once the sight of Judah’s seer;
sweet the countless tongues united
to entrance the prophet’s ear.

Round the Lord in glory seated
cherubim and seraphim
filled his temple, and repeated
each to each the alternate hymn:

‘Lord, thy glory fills the heaven;
earth is with its fullness stored;
unto thee be glory given,
holy, holy, holy, Lord.’

Heaven is still with glory ringing,
earth takes up the angels’ cry,
‘Holy, holy, holy,’ singing,
‘Lord of hosts, the Lord most high.’

With his seraph train before him,
with his holy Church below,
thus unite we to adore him,
bid we thus our anthem flow:

‘Lord, thy glory fills the heaven;
earth is with its fullness stored;
unto thee be glory given,
holy, holy, holy, Lord.’


Creed    Do you believe and trust in God the Father,

        source of all being and life,

        the one for whom we exist?

All    We believe and trust in him.


Do you believe and trust in God the Son,

        who took our human nature,

        died for us and rose again?

All    We believe and trust in him.


        Do you believe and trust in God the Holy Spirit, Who gives life to the people of God  And makes Christ known in the world?

All    We believe and trust in him.


        This is the faith of the Church.

All    This is our faith.

        We believe and trust in one God,

        Father, Son and Holy Spirit.          Amen.

PRAYERS read by Martin and Françoise



Merciful Father, accept these prayers for the sake of your Son, our Saviour Jesus Christ. Amen.
Gathering our prayers and praises into one, let us say the Lord’s Prayer together. 





The grace of our Lord Jesus Christ and the love of God and the fellowship of the Holy Spirit be with us all evermore AMEN







Please copy the link above to watch this weeks Sunday service.



One of the things which frightens me is water. I don’t like swimming and being in a boat fills me with dread. But I love being by the sea and watching the waves and the power of the tides. One holiday we went to St Abbs Head in the Borders and there was a storm. Not to be deterred we walked to the harbour and watched in fascination at the spectacle unfolding. Someone had left their Range Rover on a slipway and the vehicle had slid into the water and was carried away. There was nothing anyone could do because the sea was so rough and gradually as we watched the whole car was broken into pieces!

So I can understand the fear that the disciples felt in their fishing boat on the lake as the wind buffeted them, although they were less likely to be panic stricken as they would have encountered these storms before. They had been so recently with Jesus but Jesus had needed some time alone with his Father after feeding 5000 and performing other miracles and healings. He sent the disciples ahead of him, in fact in some versions it states that he compelled them to go, probably telling them he would catch them up. The disciples were on their own.

They were not there through any fault of their own and in fact were there because they were being obedient to Jesus. The storm was one thing but seeing a figure walking towards them was quite another and they were afraid. Jesus spoke and said, “Take courage! It is I. Don’t be afraid.” Three phrases which meant so much. “Take courage” giving the disciples encouragement not rebuking them. “It is I”, referring to God’s name of I am. “Do not be afraid” words used when the twelve were sent out on their mission, at the tomb to the women and at the Transfiguration to the disciples frightened by the great light.

How did the disciples feel when they realised who it was? Well, we know how Peter reacted!! Impulsively he said that if Jesus asked him to he would be able to go to him. And at first, Peter walked towards his Lord. But then he realised what he was doing, felt the buffeting wind and the tumultuous waves and dropped into the sea.

Peter acted on impulse but his heart was in the right place and he always acted out of love. Yes, he often failed and came to grief but Jesus had warned that following him would not be easy. And Peter never finally failed. In the moments of failure he turned to Jesus and clutched at him to be saved.

If we think of times when we have felt adrift then we come near to recognising what this story can tell us today. When Peter took his eyes away from Jesus he was afraid and thought that he could not do as Christ did. Jesus reached out and took his hand asking why he doubted. That is a question which Christ often asks us!!


Jesus climbed into the boat and the storm stopped. And the disciples were no doubt very grateful that it had. They showed how they felt in the words “Truly you are the Son of God.” There is a story told by William Barclay from St Francis of Sales who had noticed that a young girl who was fetching water always put a piece of wood into the pail before she lifted it. He asked her why and she told him that it was to keep the water from spilling, to keep it steady. When the bishop later wrote to a friend he said, “So when your heart is distressed and agitated put the Cross into its centre to keep it steady.”


We all have moments or even longer times when we suffer doubt. Jesus came to the disciples in their time of need and we need to believe that that is what happens for us. That is what faith is: reaching out to grasp Christ’s hand and knowing that he will catch us and hold us. Yes, sometimes we feel he asks us to do the impossible but we don’t have to do it alone.


 Many of us are overwhelmed by what is happening in the world today. We see the effects of the Covid 19 virus, the conflict in various places and the destruction of so much. But each one of us is beloved by God and even when we falter, God never does! Neither doubt nor faith are easy each bringing their own problems but faith is far more powerful as it comes with love, calmness. Doubt simply brings uncertainty and despair.


At this point I was having real problems about how to finish the talk. I spent several days trying to work it out and then found this piece from (Tony Peterson, The Africana Worship Book: Year A, Discipleship Resources, 2006, p. 91.)


Lord If It’s You …

Lord, it it’s you, we need to hear from you

When we are alone
When we go away to pray
When we have little faith
When we are battered by the waves
When the wind is against us
When we get in the boat
When we’re terrified by our ghosts
When we seek you on the mountain
When we cry out in fear
When we start walking on water
When we begin to sink
When we are far from land

Lord, if it’s you,
speak to us
calm our fears
calm our storms
Strengthen our resolve
Remind us who you are
Walk to us
Call to us
Save us
Reach out your hand and catch us
Quiet the wind around us.

Lord, if it’s you, we worship you for “Truly you are the Son of God.”



Sunday Service for the Welland Fosse Benefice 2nd August 2020 Trinity 8

Sunday Service for the Welland Fosse Benefice 2nd August 2020 Trinity 8

Sunday Service for the Welland Fosse Benefice 2nd August 2020 Trinity 8



Please click on the above link to watch the service.


The Boy with his packed lunch. The man, looks back Matthew 14:13-21

I remember that day so well. Jesus was coming to our area, around Capernaum. Everyone was talking about him, about the miracles he did, his speaking. Some said he had been sent by God, that maybe he was, the Messiah. I guessed some friends of mine might be going and I might tag along too. My Mum had been baking and said take some food with you. Your friends are not as fortunate as we are and would like some bread and take those fish you caught; I grilled them last night. So, I did. We boys could have a feast wherever we ended up, which turned out to be out in the wilderness out near Tagbah as we followed where Jesus came ashore. We all felt like our ancestors wandering in the wilderness for all those years. It was windy out there so I worked my way round so I could see Jesus and hear him on the wind. There were so many people, thousands, really and I soon lost my friends and forgot about my lunch. I hardly noticed the sun dipping. But Jesus’ helpers, disciples, did and suggested we were sent out to get some food. I was alright with my loaves and fishes – perhaps I could share my food with Jesus while others were out buying their own. Mum had told me his cousin John had just been killed. But, no Jesus said to the 12 disciples – you give them something to eat. What would happen? Would it be like when God provided manna and quails in the wilderness? The disciples came to us asking if we had brought any food. So, I put up my hand and showed tm the little loaves and the fish. They ushered me forward in front of this great crowd. No one else had brought anything and the disciples looked sad, but Jesus took my little loaves and small fish. He broke the bread like the priest does in the Temple and prayed the Berakah “Blessed art Thou, O Lord our God, King of the universe, who bringest forth bread from the earth.” The bread was broken and blessed and then the disciples, not Jesus came around everyone and fed every one of us. Elisha had once fed 120 men with a few small loaves but there were thousands of us and just those 5 loaves that had been broken and two fish.

Broken; Later I would learn that Jesus’ body was broken on a cross, executed by the Romans, broken for the sins of the world, my sins, your sins and my mind was drawn back to that miraculous day in the wilderness. On that day it was broken, we had enough to eat and wow, were we full  So full that when the disciples cleared up there was sufficient to fill 12 man sized baskets, taller than I was back then – all from my 5 loaves and 2 small fish. No one went away hungry and the leftovers were enough to feed folk in the little communities nearby, the next day. Because the bread was blessed, broken and distributed we were all filled for the day. But the next day I was hungry again and ate and the next day and so on. Jesus said “I am the living bread that came down from heaven. Whoever eats this bread will live forever. This bread is my flesh, which I will give for the life of the world.” My small loaves fed us all for a day, with the fish. Jesus feeds us forever.

I understand in your modern world you have not been able to celebrate eucharist and break the bread as we do and I am sorry for that but you have been filled with that bread and will be filled again, I am sure and what we have received already, feeds us and prepares us forever for eternal life with Jesus. I may not have had my one to one meal with Jesus that day with my 5 loaves and 2 fishes but everyone, including my friends, wherever they’d got to were able to be fed because of God’s love and compassion for us. Was that a miracle? Well yes, I guess it was. There were many miracles that day, people healed, lives changed but this feeding was special because it changed all of us. Not because we were no longer hungry but because Jesus had shown his love to all of us and used his followers to distribute and share that love as all of us were fed.

And Jesus still does just the same. He still loves us, still feeds us and still uses his followers to go out and give life for the world. He still mends broken hearts and fills empty lives and blesses us all and uses his followers to distribute and deliver that grace, as he did on that day in the wilderness, symbolised in that mosaic you have seen, which is still there in my home church in Tagbah. So, will you, as followers of Jesus deliver and distribute the love of Jesus like those disciples did with my packed lunch? I hope so. Amen

21 June Zoom Church in Words & Video

21 June Zoom Church in Words & Video

On the Second Sunday after Trinity in 2020, which was also Father’s Day, 24 households across the Benefice Zoomed or Phoned in to the service, bringing 34 people together to worship ‘face to face’. Our Ordinand Simon Aley led the service and ran the technology.

You can view the service at your leisure here on YouTube.  Simon’s sermon and visual aids are posted below the YouTube video. 

SERMON – St Vitalis, Sbettia, Tunisia, North Africa. Have a look at this picture. What do you think it is?

OK, so it is a byzantine font or baptistry from a church in North Africa dating back to the 5th or 6th century The basilica has largely been destroyed over time but this font/baptistry survived with steps to go down and steps to rise up.

What does its shape remind you of?

St Vitalis

Haggia, Sophia, Istanbul – Or what about this second font/baptistry also byzantine, this time from Turkey and only recently excavated when they changed the church to a mosque. Only one set of steps here and perhaps the shape is clearer?


The answer is they are coffin shaped and probably this was quite deliberate. This talk probably needs filing under not for use at a child’s christening service even though it is highly relevant. As the lockdown continues, sacraments like baptism and communion seem distant memories. So, this is an opportunity to reflect on our baptisms and the importance of the sacrament shortly after Easter and Pentecost with which they are so closely linked.

Until now Paul has been writing to the Christians in Rome about the need to turn to Christ and be saved. Now Paul turns his attention to those who have been saved and what this means for each Christian and he demonstrates this with baptism. When you were baptised your old self died Hence these fonts are coffin shaped to vividly demonstrate this metamorphosis. So, what is the significance of baptism?

We are saved not because of anything we did but because of what Christ did for us and that necessitated his death on a cross. This is necessary because as Paul is about to say the wages of sin is death so by spiritually dying with Christ we are united in his saving death and rising out of the water we leave the old sinful self behind and rise out as Christ rose from the dead. Note how Paul describes sin and its wages. For Paul, sin is real, almost a being, a king or a slave-owner demanding wages, its pound of flesh. But sin has once and for all time been deposed and put in its place and we too can shed that burden.

Yesterday morning as we said morning prayer, something I commend to any of you who can or are prepared to rise for 8.30 in the morning and can be accessed most mornings on the same meeting id you used to access this service. Yesterday morning we read from Luke chapter 12 where Jesus says “I have a baptism to be baptised and what stress I am under until it is completed.” Jesus is using the symbol of baptism, because it is a symbol, a sacrament, an outward sign of an inward spiritual grace. He uses that symbol to point towards his death and resurrection that his baptism in the River Jordan was leading up to –the baptism to be baptised. On Pentecost Sunday those of you with us; we looked at Philip and the Ethiopian Eunuch baptised into union with Christ and receiving the Holy Spirit right near the beginning of the Acts of the Apostles showing that baptism has been the initiation practice from the very start.

But wait a minute, Simon, these baptisms seem very different from our baptisms and our fonts look more like this:-

Tixover’s font

This of course is the font at Tixover with the first aid box prominent in the corner in case anything should go wrong, God forbid! Because no one is going to be buried in there or climb out! True, but our liturgy reflects Paul’s imagery of baptism. This is what the Pastoral Introduction to our denomination’s liturgy of baptism says:

“The service paints many vivid pictures of what happens on the Christian way. There is the sign of the cross, the badge of faith in the Christian journey, which reminds us of Christ’s death for us. Our ‘drowning’ in the water of baptism, where we believe we die to sin and are raised to new life, unites us to Christ’s dying and rising, a picture that can be brought home vividly by the way the baptism is administered. Water is also a sign of new life, as we are born again by water and the Spirit. And as a sign of that new life, there may be a lighted candle, a picture of the light of Christ conquering the darkness of evil. Everyone who is baptised walks in that light for the rest of their lives.”

Being baptised does not stop you ever sinning again. Wouldn’t that be great if it did! But baptism does enable us to cast off that old sinful self and rise with Christ with whom we are united as a new creation, no longer in condemnation for our sinful lives to enable us to journey on with God and it does not change whether you are baptised at 16 weeks, 16 years or 16 half-decades

Nor does baptism stop after you are baptised or even after you have confirmed that baptism it is a journey we walk for the rest of our lives, united to Christ. Of course, that walk will not be sin-free but should be sin-less, reduced sin because our lives are united to Christ. We should not take for granted the grace that God has given us and act indifferently. Otherwise we have not left that old sinful life behind. It is by grace that we have been saved and it is by faith in Christ that we walk a new life united with him no longer in condemnation but wanting to live a better life.

Let us pray. This prayer is from the Common Worship Order of baptism.

Loving Father,

we thank you for your servant Moses,

who led your people through the waters of the Red Sea

to freedom in the Promised Land.

We thank you for your Son Jesus,

who has passed through the deep waters of death

and opened for all the way of salvation.

Send your Spirit,

that those who are washed in the water of baptism

may die with Christ and rise with him,

to find true freedom as your children,

alive in Christ for ever.   AMEN


14 June Zoom Church service in Words & Video

14 June Zoom Church service in Words & Video

An increasing number of people around the Benefice are joining Zoom church on a Sunday morning AND phoning in from landlines.

Christopher’s Sermon for Sunday 14 June may be read below, and if you’d like to see and hear the service ‘as live’ just click on the Youtube link below. Please note a technical hitch that muted Simon’s microphone while the hymn was played means there’s a silent period, but hang in there: the hymn does come later! 

SERMON – Rublev’s Icon

Icons from the Orthodox Tradition do invite us in.  Like the computer icon, they take us into a different world, into the more intimate company of Almighty God. This 14th century icon illustrates our reading today when 3 figures visit Abraham and announce the surprising birth of a baby to his wife, Sarah, aged 90. You will know that it was ‘written’ by a Russian monk, Andrei Rublev and is called ‘The Hospitality of Abraham’. It moves the conversation closer to the nature of God. Rublev has Christianised the Genesis story by identifying Abraham’s 3 visitors as the 3 persons of God. Rowan Williams calls it, “God’s Selfie!”

Rublev depicts the 3 visitors as angels: they have wings. Blue is the colour which connects all three, suggesting a heavenly home. The figure on the right is the Holy Spirit, his blue garment covered in green, the colour of life, for we talk in The Creed about The Holy Spirit, the giver of Life. The angel in the middle represents The Son with a dark red covering suggesting the colour of earth, the colour of blood, reminding us of the incarnation and crucifixion. The figure on the left is the Father, his blue cloak covered with a translucent robe symbolizing divine glory.

The Lessons

What then are the messages we can read from this icon about God?

Firstly, the figures sit in a circle around the communion table suggesting unity. They even look alike!

Secondly, they have regard for one another, their heads inclined to the other but with one eye also on that which is the focus of their attention, the chalice.

Thirdly, there is someone missing: Abraham!  He needs to be there to receive the news about a miraculous birth.  But the gap is meant for us too. We are drawn into that holy company.

Re-opening Churches.

I know that some of you will be quite familiar with this icon and how it works but I am taking the liberty of sharing it with you again because an icon stands at the threshold of a new world and we are on the threshold of re-opening our churches.

This pandemic has changed our lives in so many ways, both great and small, temporary and permanent. It has also highlighted the value of our churches as sacred places in our communities.  It’s when you lose something that you realize its value! 

The Genesis story records a critical and unique moment in the Bible story – when Abraham’s offspring is predicted which leads us to Jesus. A birth is announced, names are changed, a new order begins and Abraham is taken into the intimate decisions of Yahweh. Here is a moment to record: by story and by icon.

So as we gradually re-open our churches, this icon reminds us of that threshold moment when the holy becomes tangible, as it does so often in our churches. It is there that we meet with God. That sacred space beckons us. But things will be different.

The lessons drawn from the icon remind us firstly of our unity, which no virus can destroy. We are all distinct, unique yet each has a part to play. What will be that part for you in the new reality? Zoom worship during the lockdown has flattened the church hierarchy.  Others have emerged to take on leadership roles. This will be a growing feature of church life beyond the lockdown.

                                                                                Secondly, Abraham’s visitors have a care for one another. They look out for the other.  Whom do we need to look out for as the lockdown eases?  Neighbourliness has always been a mark of village life but it has increased during lockdown. But we will each know those whom we do our best to avoid. However life is too short to continue that charade.  Is it time to do something about it?

                                                                                Finally, our inclusion in this mystery.  It is so easy to assume some superiority in our church-going.  All are invited; all are hard-wired for faith.  Perhaps this is a new moment given to us to assume not that others are excluded but that others would like to be there too.  Issue that invitation, however coded! The future of our churches cannot be guaranteed after this fierce pandemic.  It requires the work of us all to mark the ongoing importance of that sacred space in the centre of our village communities.

We are about to enter a different world. With the angelic guests of Abraham, let us be quiet for a moment and contemplate the possibilities in front of us. Amen.



  Readings for this Sunday



Gen. 18. 1 – 15 (21. 1 – 7 )      Ps. 116. 1, 10 – 17     Rom. 5. 1 – 8  Matt. 9. 35 – 10. 8

BCP:  2. Sam. 9. 6 – end  Ps. 41. 1 – 4    1 John 4. 7 – end    Luke 16. 19 – 31



What does Zoom Church look like? This!

What does Zoom Church look like? This!

The Benefice is now holding Sunday Service ONLINE each week and ANYONE can join in, including people who don’t have the internet (who are getting a leaflet about this).

This is what our new Sunday Service looks like – just click on the link:

You can join in ‘face to face’ via a PC, Mac, iPad or a Smartphone. Let Simon Aley have your email address and he will invite you, sending you a link to click on each week.  Contact him at

If you don’t want to do that, or don’t have the technology, you can PHONE IN FROM A LANDLINE, by calling 0203 695 0088 or 0203 966 3809 and when prompted, use your keypad to enter this number and the hash symbol:  4761164739#

If you join by phone only, your face won’t be seen, but you’ll be with us in real time. 

Join each week a few minutes ahead of 10am, so that any tech issues can be resolved with Simon’s help.