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St Stephen's School


Curate’s Corner
- February

On Sunday, 29th January, we shall be celebrating the festival of Candlemas, The presentation of Christ in the Temple.  Candlemas marks the end of the Christmas and Epiphany season and it is the time when all the trimmings of Christmas are removed from the home – if they have not already been moved on Twelfth Night! The following is an extract from Robert Herrick’s poem ‘Ceremony upon Candlemas Eve’:

"Down with the rosemary, and so
down with the bays and mistletoe;
Down with the holly, ivy, all,
wherewith ye dress'd the Christmas Hall"

The date of Candlemas always comes 40 days after the birth of Jesus. Because 2nd February is halfway between the winter solstice and the spring equinox it is thought by some to be the beginning of spring and tradition has it in this country that good weather at Candlemas is an indication of severe winter weather to come!

In St Luke’s Gospel 2: verse 21 we read of Christ’s presentation in the Temple and the meeting with Simeon and Anna.  Simeon recognizes Jesus the baby as the Christ, calling him ‘a light for revelation’. This is why the service of Candlemas is a service of light, of candles, symbolizing Jesus as the light of the world.  In the 5th Century the ancient rite of candles being blessed in church was introduced and within that liturgy was a procession to mark the time when Simeon and Anna came to the Temple ‘to meet the Lord’.  

Today the image of light is an important part of our celebration of Candlemas.  The light and love of Christ shining in the darkness - the symbolism of candles – of light. Candlemas links with the light of Christmas and the lights of the Advent wreath, the decorative tree lights, and the many candles of the Nativity celebration.

A Prayer for Candlemas:

God our Father,
source of all light,
you revealed to aged Simeon
your light that enlightens all nations.
Lighten our path
that we may walk in the way of holiness
until we come to the Light that shines forever,
your Son, Jesus Christ our Lord.

Curate’s Corner - December

In December our family will be going to the Playhouse to see Alice in Wonderland.  The book of the story has been taken off the shelves and the children are enjoying reading all about Alice’s adventures before they see it acted out on the stage.  In one of the conversations that Alice has with the Cheshire cat, Alice asks “Would you tell, please, which way I go from here?”
“That depends a good deal on where you want to get to” was the reply!

In Alice’s conversation with the cat, she didn’t care much where she wanted to get to – to which the cat replied that it didn’t really matter then which way she went!

St. Stephen’s church is at a ‘cross roads’ too as it seeks to find answers to the question “Where do we go from here?”  Please join in all the debates and the discussions now and in the New Year because it does matter where we go from here.  Your opinions are valued.

The season of Advent points us in the way we should go to prepare for Christmas - it’s an opportunity to take a ‘book off the shelf’ or join one of the Advent meditations so that we can prepare ourselves prayerfully and spiritually for Christmas.

May the light of the Christ-child shine so brightly in our hearts and in our lives that everyone will know the way we are going this Christmas tide.

A very Happy Christmas

From the Churchwardens

Since our last communication with you, and as seen in our notes posted in the Church Porch of our meeting with the Bishop, it is quite clear that we shall not have another Vicar of Kirkstall for at least five years, and possibly never again!
There might be a Priest-in-Charge – although not necessarily living in our former Vicarage – but in the short term the present situation will have to continue.
As mentioned in the September magazine, the PCC will shortly be meeting with the Area Dean and/or Archdeacon to discuss the needs of the parish and the type of person required to lead our worship – both in and out of church.  Do please let PCC members know your views.
In the meantime, services in church will continue – to the best of our ability – as  usual, and with the great help of Brenda, our other licensed lay helpers, and other clergy both local and retired we have organised services well into the future, but as so excellently put by our former Vicar, Revd Richard Wiggen, at our Dedication Service in September, changes will occur.
Changes are inevitable, changes are sometimes desirable, changes may HAVE to occur …
If there are less clergy there may be fewer services, if members of the congregation do not volunteer for various duties, then many activities and events may not take place.
Let us ensure that our ministry at Kirkstall continues.  With your prayers and, above all, good-will and assistance, worship and ministry at St Stephen’s WILL continue for many years to come.
        “Through all the changing scenes of life,
        in trouble and in joy,
        the praises of my God shall still
        my heart and tongue employ.
        Fear him, ye saints, and you will then
        have nothing else to fear;
        make you his service your delight,
        your wants shall be his care.”

With our love and good wishes,
Judith & Christine

Curate’s Corner - October

Harvest Festival is a popular service even though there has never been an order of service for it in our prayer books!  This year we shall celebrate our Harvest Festival at the Family Service on 9th October – when we shall be giving thanks to God for the beauty of our world.   Harvest also marks the time when the earth begins to rest; the soil lies dormant over the winter months ready for the sowing of seeds in springtime and new growth in summer.  It is also a time of remembering those areas of the world where the harvest has failed or the crops have not been so abundant. Our ‘vested’ interest in the world means that we must work to share our resources with those whose harvest has not been so fruitful, and where terrible starvation is so prevalent.  
We have all been given a wonderful world in which to live.  The world is not ours to exploit - we are only custodians of it and we all have a responsibility to care for and nourish and sustain the whole of creation for this and future generations.  The world today is fragile; in this time of global warming we are beginning to see for ourselves the effects of climate changes, and each of us has a responsibility to do all that we can to stem the environmental exploitation of this planet.
God placed this world in our hands - ‘r’ we willing to use our hands and ‘r’ resources to work God’s will in the world, so that we and future generations can all share in the HA-R-VEST?
Gerard Manley Hopkins wrote:
Pied Beauty
Glory be to God for dappled things-
For skies of couple-colour as a brindled cow;
For rose-moles all in stipple upon trout that swim;
Fresh firecoal chestnut-falls; finches’ wings;
Landscapes plotted and pieced – fold, fallow and plough;
And all trades, their gear and tackle and trim.

All things counter, original, spare, strange;
Whatever is fickle, freckled (who knows how?)
With swift, slow; sweet, sour; adazzle, dim;
He fathers-forth, whose beauty is past change:
Praise him. The Final Vicar's Letter

“For all that has been, THANKS; To all that shall be, YES.”
(Dag Hammarskjold)

As I was reminded by the wonderful “Selected Highlights” folder presented to me, on behalf of the Magazine Committee on my last Sunday, these were the words I quoted in my very first magazine article to you all in September 1997. It seems poetic, therefore, as well as highly appropriate to quote them again as a final word.

I do thank you all for the many ways in which Sunday 24th July, 2005, was made a special and memorable occasion of worship, of celebration and of farewell. Thank you of course for the generous cheque presented to me on that occasion, as well as for the many other individual and group presentations and gestures made. I have deposited the money safely for the time being, so that once I am finally settled in my new abode I can purchase something which will continue to be a reminder to me of you all at St Stephen’s.

I have, as many of you know, just returned from the sights of Rome where I revelled in the experience of standing on some of those amazing historic sites, dating back 2000 years and more! Such experiences, like standing under a starlit sky, serve also as sobering reminders of both our own smallness within the story of this universe, but also the immense privilege and responsibility of featuring in the story at all!

“This is our story, this is our song…” we have said or sung together at our Eucharistic services of worship and thanksgiving over the past eight years. I want to thank you, therefore, also for what we have shared together of the particular story of St Stephen’s, of the more fundamental story of the Christian faith, and of our own privileged and sometimes fragile lives.

The last eight years with you all has been a chapter in my life which I shall hold dear and carry with me into the future.

The future, yours and mine, continues to be held in God’s hands but we can be sure that it too will be marked and guided by the Love and Challenge which always lies at the heart of the Gospel story which we share.
“For all that has been, THANKS; To all that shall be, YES.”
(Dag Hammarskjold)
With my Love and Prayers