Minister’s Letter (2024)
[2022 letters], [2023 letters]

O still, small voice of calm.

Sarah and I have just returned from a refreshing – bracing even – holiday in the Highlands of Scotland. One of the highlights of the Lodge we were staying at was a hot tub. The initial shock getting into water at 38°C when the air was at 11 degrees was rapidly replaced by an invigorating warmth. But what really struck us was when we stopped talking: how quiet it was. No cars, no jets on a nearby flightpath, no background hubbub. Just a silence that was almost magical.

It made me wonder; do you sometimes find that life is so full of noise that you can hardly hear yourself think? Are you ever so inundated with “incoming” communications from multiple channels like TV, radio, social media, email, junk mail, news apps, and podcasts that you lose sight of the answers you are looking for? Or do you find that the noise can come from within as you struggle to fulfil your dreams?

The prophet Elijah experienced a similar thing when he ran away from King Ahab and his wife Jezebel, hiding in a cave at mount Horeb:

The Lord said, ‘Go out and stand on the mountain in the presence of the Lord, for the Lord is about to pass by.’
Then a great and powerful wind tore the mountains apart and shattered the rocks before the Lord, but the Lord was not in the wind. After the wind there was an earthquake, but the Lord was not in the earthquake. After the earthquake came a fire, but the Lord was not in the fire. And after the fire came a gentle whisper.
1 Kings 19:11-12

Elijah was feeling like a total failure, that he was the only prophet of the Lord God left. His mind would have been in absolute turmoil. The point God was making to him was to tune out all the noise in his head, notably the fear of an evil royal family, to be still and listen to his wisdom breaking through.

This story reminds us of the value of quietness in a noisy world. Taking time to reflect and meditate helps us filter out the cacophony to find meaningful insights and truths. And it reminds us to be open to the idea that God can work through the seemingly insignificant. Not all answers come from the loudest or most obvious sources. Why not spend some time purposefully listening out for God’s voice in the ordinary events of life? It can also be life-giving to others when we are the source of quiet encouragements, “seeding” them gently into people’s lives.

Finally, as you read this, I expect polling day in the UK general election will be almost upon us. I hope you will be able to filter out the noise from a loud campaign and vote for the party you most trust to address the priorities God may be laying on your heart.

Prayer (based on Psalm 46)

Lord, our refuge and strength,
In the face of earthquakes, tsunamis,
And nations in uproar,
Help us to be still and know that you are God.
Lead us to the river of gladness
And the holy place where you dwell.
Lift your voice so that we can hear you,
Bringing peace in our lives, our nation, and our world.

Sam Mortimer, Curate.


Now that I am old and my hair is grey…. …. do not abandon me, O God! Psalm 71.18

In February members of the Ministry Team went to an interesting session at Emmanuel Church, Bicester, to hear about the Anna Chaplaincy. Anna Chaplains are named after the faithful widow, Anna, who appears with Simeon in Luke’s gospel at the time of Jesus’ presentation in the temple. Anna Chaplaincy is a ministry undertaken by volunteers in communities to provide emotional and spiritual support to older people in their own homes, sheltered housing or care homes. The Chaplaincy was set up to respond to a growing need for a distinctive ministry to older people, and their families and carers, as the population ages. The need for spiritual care continues, regardless of age.

In 2018 there were 1.6 million people aged 85 years and over. This is projected to rise to 3 million by 2043. According to Age UK, 58% of people over the age of 75 live alone, and 1.3 million older people say they have not been in contact with a friend, family or neighbour for more than a month.

Although we are not in a position to develop the Anna Chaplaincy in the Benefice in a formal way, the Organisation (which is part of BRF Ministries) has useful resources. People who visit and support elderly family, friends and neighbours may find such resources helpful. (

Now that I am old and my hair is grey, do not abandon me, O God!

Now that I am old and my hair is mostly grey, it seems time for a change of emphasis. Living with rheumatoid arthritis and its associated conditions - including poor circulation - for 44 years has taken its toll. Fortunately, the treatments are so much better now than when I was first diagnosed. God’s grace, along with medication, has enabled me to be upfront (and upright!) for far longer than I anticipated. With Alice’s agreement, I will now be taking fewer Sunday services, especially in the winter, and I hope to concentrate more on helping to support people who are no longer able to get to church.

Please contact me:

Liz Welters, Associate Minister (email: tel:01869 249481)

Anna Chaplaincy Carer’s Guides:

The Anna Chaplaincy Prayer

Faithful God, you have promised in Christ to be with us to the end of time. Come close to those who have lived long and experienced much. Help them to continue to be faithful and, within the all-age kingdom of God, to find ways to go on giving and receiving your grace, day by day. For your glory and your kingdom. Amen

Dementia Information and Resources

Dementia Action Week, an awareness raising campaign, was held last month. This year’s theme is dementia diagnosis. There are currently more than 900,000 people with dementia in the UK, with this number set to rise to over 1.1 million by 2030. Helpful information and resources are available from:

The Alzheimer’s Society -
The website has information about dementia, finding support and help with care, and finances.
Includes a Dementia Guide, Living well after your diagnosis, and a Guide for Carers.
They provide a Dementia Support Line, with trained staff ready to help. Tel: 0333 150 3456

Dementia UK - Tel: 020 8036 5400
Numerous advice leaflets can be downloaded or ordered by post.
There is a free, confidential Dementia Helpline which is staffed by dementia specialist Admiral Nurses who provide information, advice and support with any aspect of dementia. Tel: 0800 888 6678
They also offer phone or video call appointments lasting 45 minutes in virtual clinics. Available Monday to Friday, 9am - 4pm, and. See website for more details.

Age UK
Age UK provides a free advice line on 0800 678 1602, open 8am-7pm, and community-based support services for people living with dementia and their carers. For dementia information guides visit:

Forget Me Not Bicester
Forget Me Not (Bicester) Ltd is a friendship and lunch club which aims to prevent loneliness
and social isolation for older people. It provides person-centred care led by friendly staff in a safe, fun environment, a two-course hot lunch, a range of activities, exercises, professional live entertainment and good company. Carers can leave their loved ones, safe in the knowledge that they are being looked after by staff, who between them have over 30 years’ experience in day care settings and are qualified in dementia care. If you are interested in joining the club, or volunteering, please phone: 07507 749931 or email: - you’ll be sure of a warm welcome.


Not just for Whitsun

Very occasionally, you may still hear people talking about the Spring Bank Holiday as the ‘Whitsun’ break. Until 1965, this national holiday took place on the Monday after Pentecost; but the inconvenience of its date, always 50 days after the moveable feast of Easter, finally argued for its replacement with a fixed ‘day off’. Our inherited cultural calendar understood the intimate connection between these two great feasts, which share an almost equal weight in the cycle of the Christian year.

Easter proclaims the resurrection of Christ from the grave, the transformation of humanity into something glorious after its passage through pain and death. It celebrates something fundamentally mysterious, defying explanation. The disciples are confounded by the risen Christ when they encounter him: as the gardener, the companion on the journey to Emmaus, or the stranger on the shoreline. Jesus is almost unrecognisable - until their eyes are opened, and they begin, fragmentarily, to understand. The risen Lord is no revived corpse. He is the flickering image of the human future, cast into the shadowy present of his friends for them to behold.

doveFifty days after the resurrection, the disciples wait in the Upper Room. In the calendar of the Old Covenant, it is the Feast of Weeks, Shavuot, commemorating the gift of the Law on Sinai. The disciples hear the wind and behold the flames, and then find they are able to speak and be understood by many as they are filled by the Holy Spirit. They receive something far greater than the Law this Pentecost because God himself comes to inhabit them. He comes as the advocate, source of consolation and giver of gifts, who will speak the truth through them to all who will hear. He comes as love to dwell in their hearts, making sense of the mystery of the Christ they have encountered, and enabling them to share that mystery with others. Pentecost gives the disciples all they need to pass on what they have received from the Lord, so that others too may believe, and be transformed.

The gift of Pentecost is not just for Whitsun. It flickers in every natural gift and skill we possess. It rises to a flame in Baptism, in the sharing of the Eucharist and the life of Christian discipleship. To us it gives the ability, and the boldness, to pass on what we have received, and to live faithfully and lovingly in hope of the glory which is to come.

This article by Revd Dr Dominic Keech is reprinted with permission from The Sign.

This year Pentecost (Whit Sunday) is 19th May.

Whirlwind Spirit

dovesWhirlwind Spirit of God,
Roar through our timidities and fears,
Shake the foundations of our ill-placed securities,
Sweep away the cobwebs of our apathy,
Blow down the walls that separate us, one from another.
Then into all our empty spaces, breathe
re-strengthened courage to challenge injustice,
renewed belief in the urgency of our vocation,
revitalised passion to change our lifestyles,
re-dedication to speak only words that build and unite.
Let gentle breeze and still small voice
become in us today
mighty wind and loud proclamation.
Make of us a Pentecost people!

Kathleen O'Brien/CAFOD


Thank you so much for your warm welcome into the Shelswell Benefice.
As you probably know, my start here was severely disrupted by crashing my bike crossing the “Bainton Splash”. As advised by a physiotherapist, that will be the last time I try to ford a stream on two wheels! The accident forced me into six weeks of convalescence, that coincided with Lent, the period when we reflect on the time Jesus spent in the wilderness following his baptism by John, and before starting his ministry in Galilee:

At once the Spirit sent him out into the wilderness, and he was in the wilderness for forty days, being tempted by Satan. He was with the wild animals, and angels attended him.
Mark 1:12-13

Jesus needed to spend time away from the world, preparing for what was going to be an intense time of travelling, teaching, and healing. Regular “retreats” also became an integral part of his life pattern during his three years in Northern Israel.

At times my time at home did feel like being in the wilderness. In such circumstances it can be tempting to despair. But I was looked after by a loving wife, and many kind friends came to visit me – I certainly felt like I was attended by angels and not wild beasts! And I rapidly came to appreciate this new-found space in my life, space to relax (listening to my music back-catalogue!), sit in God’s presence and reflect on what’s next.

Isn’t that something we all need to do? Modern life is that hectic, with so many priorities conflicting with each other, sometimes it can be hard to know how to plan or prepare for the future. Don’t many of us feel over-faced, dissatisfied, and stressed out?

Perhaps surprisingly, the solution to this can be the opposite of what you might expect – rather than frantically dividing our time between planning and action, to take time out to rest, recharge our batteries and spend time with God. Those who do this regularly often find they have renewed energy, clarity of vision and motivation to get important things done.

Traditionally, Lent is a time of self-denial and reflection. But as that season comes to an end and we enter Easter, why not take forward a desire to create space in our lives to be kind to ourselves, that we might better love our neighbours?


Loving Father,
We thank you for the gift of life, and for this day.
In the hustle and bustle of life, help us to set aside time:
to rest,
to focus our distracted senses on you,
and to be restored in heart, soul and mind.
As we bring our cares and worries to you,
Give us a peace that surpasses all knowledge.
In the name of your precious Son, our Lord Jesus Christ.

Sam Mortimer, Curate.


You are delightful!

bannerI wonder how you have been encouraged over the years? Who has encouraged you? What did they do that encouraged you?

As I reflect on this, I am aware that some of the people who have encouraged me probably never knew they were doing it. They were just doing a job well and with kindness. They were just smiling as they walked by. They just said a cheery word. Other people didn’t do anything particularly extraordinary – just a word of appreciation or a thoughtful act. But these things matter, don’t they!

And of course it works the other way round too. Within the space of two hours I have heard about two people left thinking they were rubbish through the hurtfulness and thoughtlessness of others. I doubt that the people who caused the hurt were even aware of it. In one of the situations, I suspect they even thought that they were being helpful and encouraging. In the other, they just weren’t thinking – and that was the problem, and they weren’t thinking about the impact that their sloppiness was having on the other person.. And we’ve all been there, haven’t we – you stand in a long queue in the bank or shop, and when you finally get to the front, the tone of voice of the person serving you leaves you feeling like something unpleasant stuck to the bottom of their shoe. Or someone is so busy trying to tell you what you ought to do, what they would do, indeed what they did do, that you end up feeling truly inept and stupid.

Most of us, however we appear on the outside, have fairly fragile insides. Even if some of the time we feel confident and assured, our image of ourselves is easily knocked and we are left feeling rubbish, that we are incapable and have nothing to offer, and that, in contrast to everyone else, we are no good. And somehow, the memory of those hurtful words and actions can persist and persist.

bannerThe truth is that each of us is a unique and precious individual, dearly loved by God. The Bible tells us that God delights in us and even though he knows our weaknesses, he sees our strengths, our gifts, our talents, and knows the ways that we, and only we, can bless other people, make the world a better place. God never thinks we are rubbish, because he knows we are not! And of course, on Good Friday, we remember that God thought we were so precious, so worth bothering with, that he was prepared to give up everything for us.

Our true value is our worth in God’s eyes – and in God’s eyes we are infinitely precious. We need to remember this for ourselves. And we also need to remember it about others. That’s why we need to treat each other with care and respect. That’s why we need to do the tasks of the day to the best of our ability. That’s why we need to encourage one another. Because a simple word or act of encouragement can make all the difference in the world.



It is still Epiphany-tide as I am writing this letter. The feast day of the Epiphany is on 6 January, but the ‘season’ carries on until 2nd February when we remember the day the baby Jesus was presented in the Temple in Jerusalem. This day is sometimes called ‘Candlemas’ because in many churches, after the Communion has taken place, the people will process around the building with lighted candles rejoicing in the birth of Christ, ‘the light of the world’. Epiphany-tide is the time when the coming of Christ into the world is revealed as being for all people, all nations. The wise men from the east who visited the child Jesus were from outside Israel. The two old people who encountered Jesus when he was presented in the Temple, recognized him as the Messiah and, as St Luke’s Gospel expresses it, the one to bring salvation for all people “to be a light to lighten the Gentiles: and to be the glory of thy people Israel”.

There is a lovely custom associated with Epiphany. When the wide men followed the star they came to Bethlehem and crossed the threshold of his birthplace, where they found the blessing they were seeking. In remembrance of this some churches, or homes, use chalk to mark the main doorway with the following inscription: 20 + C + M + B + 24. The 20 and 24 represent the date of this year. The C + M + B represent the traditional names of the wise men - Caspar, Melchior and Balthasar – but also the Latin phrase ‘Christus, mansionem benedicat’ which means ‘Christ bless the house’. [In Bavaria, Germany, people dressed as the wise men actually go round the houses and chalk the doors.] As we mark the threshold of our home or of our church in memory of the wise men’s journey we pray, at the threshold of the new year, that Christ will bless our homes and remain with us throughout the year.


You could do this for yourself, and then pray:
Visit, Lord, we pray, this home with the joy of your presence.
Bless all who live here with the gift of your love.
Help us share your care and compassion with one another,
to make this a place of welcome and strength,
of blessing and friendship,
that all who pass through this doorway
may find a hearth and home lit by the light of love.
May we grow with Christ in truth and wisdom,
as we learn to follow in his steps,
and take on his yoke,
that we may be blessed by his grace,
and find refreshment for ourselves, soul and body,
as we walk in his light into the adventure of this new year.
We make our prayer through the same Christ our Lord. Amen.

And then, when Epiphany and Candlemas are past, we turn to Ash Wednesday and the start of Lent (on 14 February this year), and the journey of preparation that brings us to the sadness of Passiontide and the joy of Easter Day. How shall we make the journey this year?

Penny Wood LLM


New Year Resolutions – or Re-Commitment?

newDuring my time in Waddesdon, Anglicans and Methodists held a joint Sunday service every so often. A particularly moving occasion for me was when we joined in worship for the Methodist Covenant Service. This service is often held on the first Sunday of the year.

The practice of holding a Covenant Service dates back to John Wesley, who wanted to provide an opportunity for Church members to make, or renew, their covenant with God. In the service Methodists joyfully celebrate God's gracious offer made to all people in Jesus Christ, that "I will be their God and they shall be my people."

relationshipThe emphasis of the whole service is on God’s readiness to enfold his people in generous love. It is not so much about coming into a relationship with God, more about remaining in it. It highlights the importance of living within the loving relationship that God has already offered, following the supreme example of Jesus who shows what it is to live in a relationship with God.

God's gracious offer is also a challenge, not just to individuals but to the whole congregation. If God is committed to his people, are they prepared to accept that as a reality and commit themselves to God in return? People are encouraged to continue to work out the implications for their lives of the fact that their relationship with God had been renewed in and through Christ.

Wesley’s first formal covenant service was held in 1755, and revisions have been made over the years, the latest being in 1999. The modern wording of the Covenant Prayer below, which is included in the Methodist Worship Book, makes it very clear that the affirmation is a serious one that embraces the whole of Christian life. The Covenant Prayer is preceded by prayers for forgiveness and an encouragement to trust in God’s promises and rely on his grace.

Understandably most people find the prayer tough to say and really mean it. The prayer does not imply that God sends troubles upon us, rather that in all circumstances of life we will continue to find God.

The Covenant Prayer is so central to the Christian life that other Churches have also adopted it. Should our Anglicans Churches do the same?

Liz Welters (Associate Minister)