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

“To plant a garden is to believe in tomorrow”

For many of us lockdown three has felt the hardest so far. Perhaps it is because we had the Christmas lights around us, raising spirits before the third lockdown, and this was simply not the way we had hoped to be starting the new year. However, the Covid-19 vaccinations are being efficiently and effectively rolled out, already protecting those who are most vulnerable in our communities, and starting to work down the generations.

At the time of writing this to you we were approaching Valentine’s Day. We’ll be well into the season of Lent when you read this and Easter is just around the corner, another time of hope and the greatest expression of love.

Like during lockdown, we rediscover the importance of the garden during our own times of need. Sometimes it can be one of the places in which we can feel closest to God. Walking bare footed on the grass or hands in the soil or tending plants. Connected to His amazing creation and design. At Easter time we firstly revisit in the bible passages the garden of Gethsemane, at the foot of the Mountain of Olives in Jerusalem. Here, Jesus prayed, deeply distressed about what lay ahead, revealing His human nature as well as His sacrificial divine nature and love for God and each of us: “My Father, if it is possible, let this cup pass from Me; yet not as I will, but as You will.” Matthew 26:39

Jesus is later betrayed here with a kiss, a revered sign of friendship and love, then led like a lamb to the slaughter.

Secondly, we revisit the garden near to where Jesus was crucified, the place where His pierced body was laid in an empty tomb and then raised to life three days later! This garden provided space for mourning and grieving, as well as for the joyful wiping away tears as Mary finally recognises the gardener as Jesus, raised from the dead!

“To plant a garden is to believe in tomorrow.”

This wonderful quote by Audrey Hepburn wonderfully captures our hope and promise for the future in God. The world is His garden, full of provisions both mentally and physically, and He’s creating a better tomorrow.

Hope for all.

Your focus word

How are your 2021 New Year’s resolutions going? Did you make any?

They are not always easy to keep even with the best of intentions. An effective alternative to resolutions can be to select a ‘word’ or phrase for the year and then use that as a focus and guide to help filter and make decisions.

For instance the word ‘re-set’ could be a great one for 2021, reminding you to:

  • add self care in your day to day routine
  • care for our planet (perhaps by repurposing items, considering purchases in terms of their ethical providence)
  • reconnect with nature (catch a sunrise, listen to the birdsong, spend time in the garden, head out for a nature walk, star gaze)
  • do something kind for someone (surprise note, charity donation, thank someone, phone call…)
  • make a note of 3 things you are grateful for (try doing this each night before you go to sleep)
  • make time to talk to God (perhaps over your morning coffee/tea)
  • re-evaluate your priorities (how do your actions, work, rest and play support your re-set?)

What ‘word’ would you choose and what does it mean to you? How will things improve for you and others when you achieve the result of your ‘word’? What will be different?

There are so many actions and opportunities your chosen ‘word’ can help to inspire, strengthen and transform areas of your life, helping you to take steps closer towards achieving your ambitions.

Keep safe and well.

New Year

One of the online Sunday reflections that really stood out during lockdown was all about prayer. The pandemic unleashed many feelings which were experienced both physically and spiritually. The feelings of isolation, distance, loneliness, questioning purpose, doubts, anxiety, and fears about the future, making the activity of prayer more challenging. During this service they shared accounts from people in varying situations, who each persevered through their individual feelings and rediscovered the hope and sense of peace prayer brings. Phil Togwell, Director at Prayer Spaces in Schools describes four simple steps to help us reconnect and pray:

P.R.A.Y: Pause, Rejoice, Ask, Yield.

Pause – ‘Be still for the presence of the Lord’. Let your mind rest. Find a quiet place. Release the thoughts and busyness of your to do list. Simply be.

Rejoice – ‘Enter His gates with thanksgiving in your hearts’. Talk to God about the things and people you are grateful for, and give thanks for them. It could simply be the weather, a connection in nature or a kind act experienced that day.

Ask – ‘Ask and it shall be given unto you, seek and you shall find, knock and the door shall be opened unto you’. Ask God for what you need. It might be strength, healing, wisdom…
whatever you need to overcome the challenges being faced. Talk to Him about your situation and circumstances.

Yield – ‘You are all I need, it’s Your face I seek, in the presence of Your light, we bow down’. Bring everything to God in prayer, lay it at His feet. When you let go you will see new opportunities

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.