The Link

The magazine of the West Buckingham benefice will not appear in print form until the Covid-19 pandemic subsides somewhat.  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 times.  Thought for the Month was usually written by our Rector but while we are without one it is being shared by number of people across the benefice.

August/September 2020
Thought for the Month
The spiritual power of music
Patricia and I have been enjoying listening to Sunday Worship on BBC Radio 4 at 8.15.  On the first Sunday in July, The Rev Lucy Winkett (Rector, St James’s Piccadilly) and the composer Bob Chilcott, explored the spiritual power of music to speak to us in troubled times.  Thanks to them, this is my theme for this Thought for the Month, relating it to our own benefice and especially to our Benefice Choir.  It also provokes some wider thoughts about the effect of the lockdown on our inner selves and on our sense of spiritual well-being.

In my personal experience, music has an astonishing ability to lift our spirits, whatever the circumstances, and one of the great joys of singing in the Benefice Choir is that one is singing in harmony (most of the time!) with singers from across our benefice.  Whether we enhance the quality of the worship of those in the congregation is for others to judge, but from a personal perspective I say without hesitation that there are few more spiritual experiences than singing beautiful music, with inspiring words, in a glorious church, with others whom one has come to know as friends over the years, in a joint effort to make as pleasing a sound as possible.  We are very blessed to have a conductor (Ed) and an organist (Mike) who are both outstanding and enable us to sing not only our old favourites but also to tackle new musical challenges that bring further rewards.

Some pieces of music have the ability to transport us, individually and instantly, into a different world, or to trigger memories and feelings, be they joyful or sad.  Generally, the hymns and anthems that we sing that are in major keys are inspiring and make us feel positive, strong and confident, while those that are written in minor keys are more reflective and melancholic.

The lockdown has brought out a deeper form of human solidarity then we knew before.  This has been the experience of Patricia and me in Shalstone, where neighbours have been wonderfully kind to us who are at the vulnerable end of the age spectrum.  Village WhatsApp and Facebook pages have been buzzing with supportive messages for everyone.  And the sense of collective heart-ache that the village felt for Jo and little Georgina when Simon so tragically died, was huge.

Despite all the tragedy caused by Covid 19, I believe that we are now more aware than ever of what a beautiful world we inhabit. We smile at strangers more.  We re-connect more with old friends on the phone or online. We enjoy watching birds more and hearing their birdsong.  We appreciate more the glory of nature. We feel our emotions more keenly.  We feel more grateful for the blessings we have, and greater compassion for those who are ill or bereaved.

It is my impression that lockdown and the necessary closure of our churches has led to no significant reduction in private prayer or spiritual reflection, and online services have been attracting lots of listeners.  However, when our churches re-open, they will once again provide us with an additional source of strength.  The church experience and its fellowship will help us, not only in facing adversity but also in living life to the full, reaching out to others, and playing our part, no matter how small it may be, in making our communities a better place.

And the spiritual power of music will continue to play its part too.
Anthony S

July/August 2020
Thought for the Month
If you ask somebody what Hope means, they will wriggle a bit and then say something like ‘ well it’s what you are looking forward to isn’t for the future?’  How does that fit with ‘ I hope so’?  All English Bibles are translations from Greek, Hebrew and Aramaic versions.  The scholars translating to produce an English version would naturally be people of their time and speak as others did.  Irrespective of all that, we should use the word with greater care. ‘Hope springs eternal’ so they say – while there is life there is hope and other phrases come to mind.  Always we should be looking at the future, at the outcome and working towards that.  Life can be a walk with Jesus and the bible tells us of many people who decided to do exactly that.  You need not ask for a destination.  Just as all roads lead to Rome, so all walks with Jesus will bring us by his heavenly grace to our Heavenly Father.

Ask any prospective bride what hymns and readings she would like for her wedding and after first declaring that she does not know any, gradually some will become apparent.  The New Testament reading will almost certainly be St Paul’s Second letter to the Corinthians Chapter 13, (Love is patient, Love is kind etc.).  Why this one you may ask, to which you will reply ‘It seems that this is the only reading about love’.  Turn the clock back 60 years and the bible that was read was the so-called ‘King James’ version published in 1611.  No mention of love here – it uses the word Charity, not to be thought of as Oxfam, Scope or Willen Hospice, but a broader love – a love which Jesus commended in the Summary of the Law’, by saying ‘Love God and Love your neighbour as yourself’. In other words, treat others in the way you would like to be treated.  The Greek language has a number of words for love – love of parent, love of neighbour, love of brother, love of self, all are covered by the one word Caritas meaning Christian love of humankind, charity.

Faith, Hope and Charity have often been used as girl’s names in the 19th Century. This year (2020) we know only one person with the name Charity and none at all with the names Faith and Hope, but yet I say unto you: ‘Faith, Hope and Charity. These three things and the greatest of these is Charity.
Anthony HB
May/June 2020
Thought for the Month
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
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.

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.

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.
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
      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!
Water Stratford News
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  '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 . You must either be a resident of the parish or attend St Giles
Any matters which you wish to raise concerning the church should be emailed to
The annual reports for 2019 that would normally be presented at the APCM will be published on the
village website once they become available.

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.

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.

These will, for the time being, not be distributed in paper form, but online at and (and on this page!).
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'
Water Stratford News (modified in light of subsequent events)
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!
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.