The Link

The magazine of the West Buckingham benefice will not appear in print form while the Covid-19 pandemic continues.  It can be found online at the benefice website but the cumulative Water Stratford content is also shown here for convenience.  Some reports may overlap with the useful links and recent events pages but it seems appropriate to publish as much community material as possible during these troubled timesThought for the Month was usually written by our Rector but now that she has gone it is being shared by number of people across the benefice.

May/June 2020
Thought for the Month

FAITH
(Hope and Charity in a later edition)

When God cast plagues upon the Egyptians so that the Children of Israel might escape, he did so with a purpose. He may have wished to test and reward.  In the gospels Jesus cures the centurion’s maidservant because of that man’s great faith.

In Middle Age England the Black Death killed thousands, in ports and market towns, in cities, and even in remote country districts.  Whole villages were left deserted and in places there was nobody left to bury their dead or to toll the bell.

In the 17th Century, the Plague was well recorded and regulations swiftly drawn up to minimise the impact of the disease.  Houses had to be shut up with their families within, mass burials were organised and the whole country was in a sorry state.

This pandemic was only stopped by the occurrence of the Great Fire of London.  Was this the work of God or the Work of Man?

During the last century the Spanish flu killed more people that the Great War itself, and now here we are again with a pandemic on our hands (please wash them!).  We are told that we must stay apart and make our best efforts to get together again by social distancing and other measures.  Once again there is no cure, once again we were not ready for it and once again thousands have died.

We are told that we must have faith and help each other in every way possible.  The effect has been to draw communities together, to meet the next door neighbour (only 6ft away) to give of our talents and to be alert as if there was a war going on.  There is a war going on and we don’t know when it is going to end or who it will take with it.   It may help us to be strong in faith if we follow this quote from Revelation ‘be thou faithful unto death and I will give thee a crown of life’.

Meanwhile we have had some beautiful days recently.  The lambs skip in the fields and the wild flowers are a joy to see.  We don’t need to make any great decisions, we only need to carry on in faith.
Anthony HB

Water Stratford News
CELEBRATING THE SEASON
Lift your spirits by taking a look at two lovely video-clips of our local rural scene in late spring, filmed by Chris and edited by Pat, with accompanying poems read by Chris.  They form part of a developing collection of online material for the time of year while we are not able to hold services in church.

WHITER RAILINGS
The railings, a historic village landmark, have now been smartened up with a new coat of white paint:
thanks to Susan for organising this improvement.

COLLECTION BAGS AND BOX
We have received a very special parting gift from Eleanor, who has now moved away from the area.  A
skilled embroiderer, she has designed and made two matching collection bags – she may have noticed that our current ones are somewhat the worse for wear, probably having been nibbled by mice!  The central design echoes a detail in our east window, with corn and grapes suggesting the bread and wine of communion; this is encircled by all the liturgical colours of white, red, green and purple, so that the bags are suitable for use throughout the church year.  Surrounding the circle are four leaves in colours which represent the four seasons, appropriate for our rural parish.  It is an exquisite piece of work.  We are going to miss Eleanor's friendship and her talents (licensed preacher, published writer, mainstay of the choir, educator, poet...) and are grateful to have these beautiful signed and dated bags to remember her by.  We wish her and her family much happiness in their new home: they are settling in during a challenging time – as Eleanor wrote in one of her poems, based on the 23rd Psalm, 'He leads me into uncertainty.'
Another form of collection receptacle was a wooden box inscribed WP 1711 CW – presumably the churchwarden in 1711 had the initials WP (CW being an abbreviation for churchwarden, also seen on
some of our bells).  This had to be sent to the diocese for safekeeping as a historic artefact many years
ago, but Chris's father had a replica made.  We look forward to dedicating all three items when we are
able to resume services.
Sara
April/May 2020
Thought for the Month
How are you coping with the strange life we are having to lead during the Covid-19 pandemic? I feel as
if I'm living in a dystopian novel.  To those of my cosseted generation, with no experience of the fear and deprivations of wartime, there are glimpses of what it was like to live through wars, or indeed the plagues and famines of the more distant past.

Our hearts go out to those who are seriously ill; and to the bereaved, many of whom have not been able to be with their loved ones at the end, and won't have the support offered by a 'normal' funeral. We are in awe of those working under incredible stress in the health and social care services.  Others too are working under unusual pressure, researching vaccines and treatments, working in the food supply chain or to keep essential services running.  Many people feel isolated and frightened without their usual support structures; families are under stress as they try to combine work with home-schooling children.  Then there are those who have lost, or fear losing, their jobs or businesses.  People have to cope with disappointment as goals long worked towards must be abandoned or postponed, whether major exams, elective surgery, weddings or sport and cultural events. 

But thank goodness that volunteers are coming forward in huge numbers to do whatever they can, and help is being offered at every level from the next-door-neighbour to the government; communities are coming together, and we are perhaps learning that it can be a blessing to receive, as well as to give: in the words of the hymn 'Brother, sister, let me serve you',
           Pray that I may have the grace to
           Let you be my servant too.
Thank goodness too for modern technology that enables us to communicate from a distance, and for the extra phone calls and emails from family and friends – some of whom we haven't heard from for a long time!  We have the benefit of information and entertainment at the touch of a button, from twenty-four hour news to museums and galleries providing online tours, theatres online plays and churches online services.  We are grateful for online shopping, and for the initiative of those repurposing businesses to meet the new needs.  The Armed Forces are supporting health and emergency services and people are working to keep running the essential services on which we depend. Engineers are adapting machinery to make ventilators and sanitiser, teachers developing ways to educate remotely, parents entertaining children kept indoors and away from friends.  Changes that would normally take years are being accomplished in days.  And thank goodness we are realising the value of those whose work has not been sufficiently valued in the past: not just the heroic staff of the NHS, but also carers, cleaners, shelf-stackers, delivery drivers, refuse-collectors, shop assistants, bus drivers... Not least under pressure are those in government and their advisers, having to digest complex information and make momentous decisions at speed: we should be very grateful to them, too.

Of course we should think of everyone suffering so much at this time.  But we should also focus on the
selflessness, courage, compassion, patience, inventiveness and sheer hard work we are seeing. St Paul
wrote, 
      Whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely,
      whatever is admirable – if anything is excellent or praiseworthy – think about such things.
Philippians Chapter 4 verse 8
Good advice – and smiling is good for the immune system!
Sara
Water Stratford News
ST GILES CHURCH
All churches have to be closed until pandemic restrictions are eased, so our church is now locked. This is an exceptional circumstance – we normally think it important to keep the the church open. However, the churchyard is still available and, at this time of year especially, is conducive to quiet reflection – the
primroses have been a spectacular sign of hope in dark times.

The church remains active online: communication continues by email, and items from the Easter service which would otherwise have taken place at St Giles can be seen (and in some cases heard!) here. In addition, a service is livestreamed by the Oxford diocese every Sunday at 10am; this can be accessed at any time on www.oxford.anglican.org/livestream.  'When, without voice, my soul prays in any place, My whole being becomes a church.' - Eric Milner-White.

The Annual Vestry Meeting and the Annual Parochial Church Meeting were scheduled to take place on
27th April 2020, but face-to-face meetings are currently not allowed. Therefore on 19th March the Bishop of Oxford signed a legal extension for these meetings until 31st October 2020, so the existing wardens and PCC will stay in post until at least then. However, in order to keep open democratic processes, on-line interaction can take place as follows:
Anyone wishing to stand for election as churchwarden or to the PCC or be added to the church electoral
roll should email wardenws@gmail.com . You must either be a resident of the parish or attend St Giles
regularly.
Any matters which you wish to raise concerning the church should be emailed to wardenws@gmail.com
The annual reports for 2019 that would normally be presented at the APCM will be published on the
village website once they become available.

PARISH MEETING AGM
This was scheduled for May 1st 2020, but has had to be cancelled as a result of pandemic restrictions. It will be re-arranged once it is safe for everyone to congregate in the Old School again.

LOCKDOWN
There has been no shortage of goodwill and neighbourliness here; we've been offered help with shopping and other tasks, a WhatsApp group has been set up, emails have gone to and fro. Lists of useful information and details of goods and services now available have been circulated and can be found here.  On Thursdays at 8pm the now rather quiet village comes alive as people show their appreciation of health and other key workers by clapping, banging saucepans, blowing whistles and shouting, while dogs join in with barking – a heartening sense of us all coming together while apart.

THE LINK AND TINGEWICK NEWS
These will, for the time being, not be distributed in paper form, but online at www.westbuckchurches.org and www.tingewicknews.co.uk (and on this page!).
Sara
March/April 2020
Thought for the month
In March we learnt that once again, we did not have anyone apply for the post of Rector of our Benefice.  This is deeply disappointing, and yet feels less significant amidst the arrival of Coronavirus. With updates from the Government coming thick and fast, and the numbers of confirmed cases increasing all the time, it is a worrying time for those who are vulnerable or who have loved ones who may be vulnerable.  And now we have learnt that all services must be cancelled until further notice. Times like this can feel dark and scary.  Darkness is often used symbolically to represent the triumph of evil over good. Think about Churchill’s speech following the Dunkirk evacuation in World War II, where he referred to the situation as our “darkest hour”.

And now we are in the period of Lent, with Good Friday approaching.  The crucifixion would definitely be described as the darkest hour.  How on earth could anything good come out of this? It almost certainly would have seemed that evil had won the battle over good.  And yet, here we find light and hope. In John’s gospel, the story of the crucifixion and resurrection is told, but there is another story that is mostly overlooked.  It is the story of a woman, a courageous woman, a strong woman, a faithful woman who never gave up hope.  It is the story of Mary Magdalene (who was not incidentally a prostitute).  She stayed with Jesus during his darkest hour at the foot of his cross when all the other disciples apart from John had run away in fear.  She wasn’t intimidated by the crowds and the soldiers as they mocked Jesus.  She didn’t allow her fear for her own life to separate her from the man she loved, and who she knew was the Son of God.  Even after his death Mary Magdalene remained faithful. She went to the tomb even though it must have felt futile to do so.  She stayed loyal and hopeful, and did what we do when we care for someone.  And she was rewarded by seeing the risen Christ.

During this time of anxiety about Coronavirus, let us be like Mary Magdalene.  Let us not desert our friends and neighbours.  Let us think about those who are in isolation and think what it is we can do for them, both practically and emotionally.  The following was sent out from the Diocese and I think it sets out perfectly how we should behave at this time:
Calm: the opposite will lead us to do things which might impact seriously on others – like panic buying.
Caring: those who self-isolate, (those in high-risk groups, or who have been in contact with the virus) need to know that we care about them.  Phone calls, messages, letters, cards, food left on the doorstep are all signs that we care.
Considerate: let’s look-out for one another, and act collectively to prevent the spread.  It isn’t just about me, it’s about us
And of course, Christ-like: let’s live hopefully, love generously and pray earnestly – and let’s bless each other by the way we behave.

Lastly, at this Easter time let’s remember the hope that comes from John’s Gospel when he says of Jesus that he is 'the light of all humankind, a light which shines in the darkness and the darkness has not overcome it'
Margaret
Water Stratford News (modified in light of subsequent events)
CHRISTMAS TREE CROSS
Many will remember the lovely Christmas tree in our church last year.  Having supplied the tree, Chris has now turned it into a cross, as a reminder that the Babe of Bethlehem became the Man of Calvary. It is hanging on the wall opposite the south door, a striking sight as you enter the church, and if you look carefully you can still see its origins as a fir tree.  This idea is taken from one I saw at the church of St Brevita in Lanlivery, Cornwall, where the churchwarden is the person through whom my husband and I met.  They in turn borrowed the idea from Holy Trinity, Stratford-upon-Avon, where our marriage banns were called!
EASTER SERVICE
At the time of writing (15th March) a benefice service of Holy Communion was planned for Easter Day, 12th April but, like services everywhere, this has had to be cancelled.  There will be live-streamed services available from various churches and details of these will also be on this site in due course.  You may be interested to know that advice from the Church of England on 15th March was to give communion in one kind only (bread only, no common cup) and stand instead of kneeling at the altar rail to avoid touching this, to avoid hand-shaking and hugging, not to pass round plates/bags for the collection, not to offer refreshments and to provide facilities for hand-washing/sanitizing before services.  This last is not easy with no sanitizer available in shops and a church without a water supply! However we would do our best to comply; if you were able to bring your own sanitizer or hand-washing bowl, we could provide hot water, soap and paper towels.  It is not often these days that we are able to hold a service in our own church on this most important festival of the Christian year, and we were very much looking forward to celebrating the occasion.
Sara