March 2012

Dear Friends,

Lent is nearly upon us. The days when it was observed by strict fasting are long gone. And, I must admit, I find it hard to stick to miserable hymns for the necessary five weeks! It is much more sense to make positive use of the season. I heard on the radio today an interesting physiological explanation for why diets never work. Perhaps a more obvious reason is that we can't stick to them very well. The same is true of New Year's resolutions. Remember yours? They are probably history. Well, Lent can be a sort of Christian New Year, but with the advantage that it's only a few weeks long. So that's one thing to do. Resolve to say your prayers more regularly, read the bible more often, or else choose and read a spiritual book (there are some at the back of church available for loan). Another option is to attend a study course. There are two possibilities within the parish, another at the cathedral. See the events page for details.

On the subject of groups, Sylvia and I have, ever since we returned to the parish, offered an annual series called a Start! Course. And that's what it is, several evenings looking at the basics of Christianity. We've always used it, as well, as part of our confirmation preparation. Please read more about this on the events page too.

A further event planned on Saturday 31st March is a Quiet Day. To explain, this is part of a link we are exploring between our churches and Thorpe Hesley Parish Church. The reasoning behind this is that Bishop Steven is aware that parishes are going to find supporting their own activities more difficult over the next few years as the number of clergy falls. He feels, and Jan, the Vicar at Thorpe, and I agree that the more we can do together the better. Churches could actually end up doing more, not less, if they pooled their resources a bit more. To start this process off, Jan and I are exchanging pulpits on Sunday March 4th and she will be leading worship at both Harley and Wentworth (at 10.45) that morning.

But back to the Quiet Day. This is being planned by the new curate at Thorpe, the Rev Lynn Broadhead, and me. It will not be a whole day! But will run from about 9.30am to 2.00pm. It will be in our church, an ideal spot for something requiring times of silence (you can tell that, because at the end of February the curates from the diocese are being brought here for a second time for a similar event). There will be times of worship, three talks, and opportunity to sit quietly, either reading or praying. Or go for a walk instead! There'll be coffee at the beginning and lunch together. I shall have a 'booking list' out in church shortly. You can come for all or only part of the time and, as well, if you forget to book, you'll still be welcome.

The media recently got hold of the 'fact' that church wedding and funeral fees were to rise sharply. I have not seen the full list of charges but believe that, whilst some have risen, other charges commonly levied have been excluded. This may mean that, whilst the flat rate may rise, other 'extras' which our and other churches have charged may no longer be included. We have already had one wedding cancelled because of worries over the new fees. I hope we can work out clear figures by May at the latest, but until then I would ask anyone who might be affected not to worry about it. I don't think it will be as bad as the headlines.

Have you walked down by the lakes below Wentworth Woodhouse recently? There is a lot of tree felling activity along the banks. This is not random but is an attempt to recapture the 1790s designs of Sir Humphrey Repton and put into practice by the 4th Earl Fitzwilliam. Vistas to and across the lakes have been lost through years of self-set vegetation and some modern planting. The scheme has been informed by a historic landscape appraisal undertaken by heritage consultants and the works have both Forestry Commission and English Heritage approval. There is no firm timetable in place, but it could be a couple of years before all works are completed. I owe this information to the land agent, Anthony Barber-Lomax. It is good to know that the valuable (and valued) local landscape is being preserved and improved in this way.

This is not a recommendation! But I was interested to learn that Clark's funeral directors of Rawmarsh were founded in 1784. That is five years before the French Revolution, when George III was King, and well before steam locomotives were invented. It is even before the serpentine lakes were planned. Ever since the firm has passed from father to son in an unbroken line. Is this a record for a local family firm?

I had a letter recently from a Dr John Ogle, who was evidently brought up in Wentworth. He would very much like a copy of a photograph taken of the top part of the church spire, which was removed for safety during the early post-war opencast mining between the church itself and the big house. Oddly enough, someone showed me just such a photograph recently and I naturally thought it was Roy Young – but it wasn't!  So, if you have such a photo and would let me borrow it to get a copy (simply done at Boots), both I and Dr Ogle would be grateful.

With best wishes,