Lights on the Hill

The darker mornings and evenings of autumn are approaching rapidly. The first person to arrive at the chapel on a Sunday, usually puts on the lights and heaters by flicking a few switches, but it wasn’t always as simple as that. For the first 70 years after the chapel was built, heating was provided by a single cast-iron “Tortoise” stove, which required some skill to ignite and coax up to temperature. Lighting was provided by 6 large oil lamps suspended from hooks on the ceiling. These had to be raised and lowered for cleaning, refilling, trimming, lighting and extinguishing using chains or cords tethered to the walls.

When electricity was installed in the early 1950’s the lamps were taken down and thrown away, probably with considerable relief for those who had the job of dealing with them!

Fortunately, one lamp (shown below) was “rescued” before it was destroyed and remains in the village. I say “fortunately” because the brass lamp, glass shade and cast-iron supporting basket were beautifully constructed in typical Victorian style.

It is good to preserve those things of the past which are beautiful. More important than our physical or cultural heritage though, is our spiritual heritage that gives us hope for the future (Romans 15:4 For whatever was written in former days was written for our instruction, so that by steadfastness and by the encouragement of the scriptures we might have hope.).

Harvest Festival

Harvest Festival was, traditionally celebrated at the beginning of August, the start of the Harvest season. This was called Lammas, meaning ‘loaf Mass’. The farmers used wheat from the new wheat crop to make loaves of bread. They gave the bread to their local Church, which was then used as Communion bread during a harvest thanksgiving service, thanking God for the harvest.

These days, not much has changed. Churches still celebrate harvest annually and many have harvest sales, or collections for local food banks to give back to their local communities. Horton Heath has always had a strong connection to the local farming community. In fact, the original Church was built on a local farm. Harvest has always been an important festival to Horton Heath, and the congregation always decorates the Church beautifully.

This year our Harvest Service will be held on 3rd October 10:45am and led by Revd. David Le Poidevin.

There will be no sale on the Monday, however we are asking for donations of non-perishable food for the food bank, to add to the display on the Sunday, which will be donated to the Trussell Trust after the service.

Items that can be donated are tins, cans, porridge, rice, pasta, sugar, nappies, toiletries, pet food. Please check out www.trusselltrust.org for more ideas.

Trees

One of the first things visitors to Horton Heath notice is the number and variety of trees we have growing around the chapel and across the grounds. We have our Victorian forebears to thank for this who, when the chapel was opened in 1877, planted around twenty different species of deciduous and evergreen trees, including elders, junipers, silver birch, copper beech, oak, yew, horse chestnut and monkey puzzle. Other trees such as rhododendron, and flowering cherry add a splash of colour in the spring and summer.

Sadly, some of the trees have been lost over the years but others have replaced them. Some to commemorate special events, such as the Coronation Tree, a Norway Spruce, planted in 1953 shown below. Others in memory of those who were dear to us.

The benefits of having so many mature and such a variety of trees are two-fold. Firstly, no matter from which aspect the trees of Horton Heath are viewed, or what time of year, we cannot but be impressed by the beauty, colour and range of God’s creation. Secondly, to be among those restful trees is to find a place perfect for reflection on the one who created them.

Sunday School Outing

The annual outing started in Victorian times and went to Bournemouth by horse drawn farm vehicles, the boys in carts, the girls in more comfortable vans. We stopped at Redhill for lemonade and sandwiches before continuing to the beach. A dangerous incident occurred here one year, when a horse took fright and bolted down the hill with a van load of terrified girls in tow. One of the older girls managed to grab the reins and bravely brought the van to a safe halt.

Another adventure involved lost children (boys, of course), eventually retrieved from Bournemouth Police Station. More enjoyable adventures were tram rides up Richmond Hill, ice creams, and Pierrot shows.

When motor transport became available, we were able to travel further and Weymouth became our regular venue until the outings stopped in the early 2000’s. Weymouth had all we needed, a safe sandy beach, a funfair, sand sculptures, shops and cafes. Each outing ended with a fish and chip supper in Wareham.  

The photograph below, from 1948, shows the outing was not just for children, but the whole church community. Beachwear may have changed but the fun of enjoying God’s creation in the company of God’s people clearly hasn’t.

Sunday School

June is the traditional month for Horton Heath to celebrate our Sunday School Anniversary. The Sunday School was founded in 1833 and started in the original Methodist Chapel in the village, which was a cob walled, thatch-roofed building on Chapel Farm. The Sunday School moved to the current Chapel on Clump Hill in 1877. We have records and recollections of early activities, typical of a country Sunday School including teas and picnics, presentations and prize-givings, and outings to the seaside, initially by horse and cart, then charabanc and latterly by coach.

The Sunday School banner is usually displayed over the front gate on Anniversary day, as shown in the photograph below dating from ca.1900. Due to its age and fragility, we tend keep the banner indoors if it is wet or windy outside, but the Sunday School is still active, still introducing children to Jesus and would welcome new members.

Thoughts for May

May always seems like a joyous month. Spring is in its full glory and the colours from the flowers ever changing. We’ve already seen snowdrops, daffodils and now the bluebells are proudly showing their carpets in our local woodlands. Maypoles and Morris dancing date back to pagan festivals, but they still bring joy to those who watch their displays.

This month we also celebrate Ascension Sunday and Pentecost. Two special days in the Church’s calendar. Traditionally represented with white for Ascension Day and colours of red and orange for Pentecost. More colour and joy flooding into our Churches. England at this time of year looks as though God has painted it with a whole palette of gorgeous colours.

In the Bible, David’s Psalms are full of praise to God. In Psalm 30, David thanks God for keeping him safe during all the hard years behind him. It feels entirely fitting that in this beautiful month we can thank God for all we can see around us, but also to thank Him for walking with us during the past difficult year as we emerge from the lockdowns we have all experienced.

"O Lord my God, I cried to You for help. 
You kept me from falling into the pit. 
Sing to the Lord, all you godly ones. 
Praise His holy name." 
Psalm 30:2-4

Looking forward

The year 2020 will soon be drawing to a close with the hopes of everyone for a better, healthier, new year to come and one in which we can safely gather together again with loved ones. This year seems to have gone so fast in many respects, yet not fast enough in terms of hopes for recovery.

It has certainly been a year of extremes. Living life from a distance, yet in some aspects being even closer to one another, opening up more  communications than ever before through various means and ways available, powerfully aided by the amazing technology we have today. A pandemic bringing fear and worry. A wonderful swell in community spirit bring hope and kindness.

For many the pandemic has hugely impacted income in one shape or form. It has also seen a richness in innovation, creativity, and precious family time. Whilst our world as we knew it stopped, nature flourished and kept its everlasting steady cycle. The pandemic has also born anxiety and uncertainty, but nature has been by our side throughout providing a safe space, a retreat, restoring balance and wellbeing. Church doors closed, and instead entered the home via email, radio, live broadcasts, tv, social media opening new doors for new people making church more accessible.

Looking back on this past year where can you see the hand of God working in your life?

Wishing you a peaceful Christmas – in whatever unique form it takes this year. It will certainly be one to remember and look back upon with grateful hearts for all we have been given and the opportunities to collectively and individually make a change in society and our lives for the better.

In this together.

‘Safe in His hands’

“I cling to you; your right hand upholds me. I cling to you; your strong right hand holds me securely.” (Psalm 63:8)

Whilst the picture of the future is still uncertain on so many levels, one thing we can be certain of is God’s unfailing love.

He’s with you every minute of every day.

In the quiet awakening of dawn rising from under the morning mist.

And your stronghold in the deep, dark, cold nights.

In the wonder of the wintery sky adorned with the brightest stars.

And your shelter in the storms.

Your guiding light.

He’s in every heart beat and breath.

Every smile, even behind the masks – you can’t hide that light

It shines warmly through the eyes.

In every helping hand and every good deed.

In every grateful heart.

Safe in His hands you can find rest, grace and strength.

Your hope and stay.

Our hope is built on nothing less.

“For I am the LORD your God who takes hold of your right hand and says to you Do not fear; I will help you.” (Isaiah 41:13)

Keep safe and hold on to the great hope we find in Jesus.

Changing seasons

The leaves on the trees are starting to turn to their wonderful autumnal colours, and just today I glimpsed (and caught!) one of the whirling ‘helicopter seeds’ as it gracefully appeared from the clear blue sky.

There’s a chill in the air but a welcome warmth in the sun. Autumn marks the start of the next chapter of this year. But what does it have in store? Hopefully more churches being able to open their doors again, gathering together physically whilst following government regulations, guidance and precautions as we all continue to protect and look out for each other.

Music has always been a significant part of our fellowship at Horton Heath. Whilst it’s changed throughout the years; from solo pedal organ through to a six piece music group in its day, and in recent years seen the addition of our trusted ‘Joan the 3rd’ hymnal to help lead the singing, never did we imagine we’d see the day that singing publicly together would be prohibited throughout the land.

It brings to mind the beautiful Matt Redman song ‘When the music fades’, which reminds us that although things are different, not all is lost. We can gain a fresh deeper perspective. The songs, even when only sung in our hearts, encourage us to simply come back to the heart of worship and focus on God’s care and provision throughout the year.

There will need to be some creative, innovative thinking to reimagine upcoming celebrations like harvest, which we’d normally be celebrating in true Horton Heath style at the beginning of October. Whilst the services and celebrations will be different for each fellowship, maybe this year we will uniquely see churches gather virtually together from around the world. 

Keep being God’s light.