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Word from Wormingford

27 January 2017

A costly resin reminds Ronald Blythe of smells from his childhood

“BRIGHTEST and best of the sons of the morning”, we sing, and the pale Epiphany sun shines on us. Reginald Heber was part-Cheshire and part-Oriental, and his hymn fills the church. A little file of myrrh from the forest lies among the debris of the kitchen shelf. It is a gum resin which is produced from several plants, and is one of the ingredients of incense. But it is not cheap.

“Say, shall we yield him, in costly devotion, Odours of Edom and offerings divine? Gems of the mountain and pearls of the ocean, Myrrh from the forest or gold from the mine?” The British Empire was in full flood, and its religions became increasingly exotic. Jesus had become the Star of the East, although “vainly with gifts would his favour secure”.

That marvellous perfume would vie with, in our case, the smell of a farm. For Marcel Proust, it would be the delicious scent of a little cake; for myself, it still was the nice smell of our childhood pigsty, and that of our greengages, which would vie with Bishop Heber’s incense.

The enclosed smell of East Anglian churches seems not to have altered an iota since I was a boy. A dedicated historian of their architecture and literary associations, I would push open the doors and immediately be engulfed in that riotous mixture of hymn books and furnishings, altar flowers and carpeting, robes and things like this which haven’t changed a bit since my boyhood.

Except, of course, the faint, deadly whiff of gas, which has never quite gone away. And, of course, Sunday-best clothes, although it is a long time since they gave up their special fusty grandeur. My first primroses vie with the Epiphany scents. And my first encounter with religious uncertainty was when the neighbour of a shopkeeper in a little town made the then shocking confession that there lived more faith in honest doubt . . . than in half the creeds.

I remain a philosophical believer. Multiple faiths of the Raj were unable to supplant Bishop Heber’s worship of Christ: in fact, they appeared to strengthen them. He was a poet whose certainties remain acceptable to us. They lie alongside these “odours of Edom”. They are starlit, like my clean East Anglian fields. Across which, in a certain light, I can see Stoke by Nayland church tower.

Blackbirds scuffle for old Christmas cake on the uncut lawns, and so Christmas departs, and the Epiphany remains, and Lent lies ahead.

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Priest in Charge (Rector Designate)

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Our suburban parish on the border between the London Borough of Croydon and the lovely Surrey countryside and with a spacious modern Rectory, is seeking a Priest-in-Charge (Rector Designate) to lead our church as we seek to fulfil our mission to proclaim Jesus, change lives and serve our community.   We are looking for a leader who, with energy and dynamism, who will develop the vision for the church to enable the children and families work to be a priority in order to grow the church both in numbers and spiritual maturity. In addition, the new person will care and tend for the existing ageing congregation many of whom have ¬faithfully served the church for many years.   The person we are looking for should have: strong communication skills, the ability to engage and encourage people across the age ranges and to convey the church’s mission, vision and priorities; a commitment to preach the Word of God in thoughtful and stimulating ways; an energy and dynamism probably more extrovert than introvert; a pastoral heart, showing empathy and good listening skills, the ability, willingness and experience to help us to develop and enjoy a variety of worship styles, including a wider range of musical worship and a deeper corporate prayer life -whilst recognising and valuing our heritage;   For further information and to apply, please click the 'apply for this job' button below.   For an informal conversation with the Archdeacon of Croydon, please contact the Archdeacon’s PA Kathleen.bailey@southwark.anglican.org to arrange a time for a phone conversation.   Closing Date: Sunday 12 June 2022 Parish Visit for shortlisted candidates: Monday 11 July 2022 Interviews: Monday 11 July 2022   Please note we have a policy in Southwark Diocese that to be appointed to an incumbent status post, a priest must have served a title in an Anglican church in the British Isles.   This post is subject to DBS enhanced disclosure

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