From our Minister
We are now well and truly into the season of Lent and anyone who has given up anything as a Lenten fast will be finding their willpower thoroughly tested. Lenten fasting was originally preparation for those who were due to be baptised at Easter, but it is also linked with the story of Jesus’ temptation in the wilderness. The idea is that by giving up luxuries we are better able to focus on what is important in life and we are able to build up our discipline to resist temptation.
In modern day Christianity fasting is not given a great deal of prominence and yet the bible has plenty to say about how we fast and about where our priorities should be. Jesus teaches that fasting is a private thing, as is prayer and the giving of alms; something for God’s benefit alone that should not be noticed by others, probably in response to those who made a great show of their piety. Isaiah speaks about fasting in terms of justice, saying that God is pleased more with those who uphold the rights of the vulnerable than with those who make a big show of sackcloth and ashes:
‘Is not this the kind of fasting I have chosen:
to loose the chains of injustice
and untie the cords of the yoke,
to set the oppressed free
and break every yoke?
Is it not to share your food with the hungry
and to provide the poor wanderer with shelter –
when you see the naked, to clothe them,
and not to turn away from your own flesh and blood?
It therefore seems to me rather apt that the Church of England has chosen this season of Lent to publish a letter urging Christians to get actively involved in politics as the elections draw closer . Although the Church has been slammed for releasing this guidance the call is not for people to be party political, but to show concern for the moral and ethical leadership that is given to the country and to seek to campaign for the wellbeing of those who suffer the effects of poverty.
As Christians we are called to offer practical help and support to those in need, but we are also called to challenge the root causes of poverty and injustice and this means being involved in politics in order to play our part in nurturing a just society.
So, this Lent if you have not yet chosen to give anything up, perhaps you might choose to take up an interest in our political system instead, asking questions and making sure that you use your vote. In that way perhaps we can fulfil Isaiah’s vision of a true fast.
A message from Aylsham
To All My Friends At Lexden
First of all I want to say a big thank you for the generous gift and signed card from the Church as well as all the individual cards and phone calls when I moved here last October. I was able to buy a small table and chairs (which are a perfect match for my kitchen) and I think of you all when I use them.
The move went smoothly in the end (after a few stressful moments prior to exchange of contracts) thanks to marvellous support from my daughter Rachel who lives in Norwich. It’s good to be closer to her and Colin and my grandchildren Anna and Ben – twenty minutes by car or half an hour on the bus. I’m making good use of my Essex bus pass which is still valid here until it expires. Ruth is further away but says her journey is easier and she has been able to bring Kim to see me several times and have lunch out. At the moment he is in remission for which we are very thankful.
A neighbour opposite brought me a poinsettia and card just after I arrived here and said ‘What a massive leap to move here not knowing anyone!’ I guess it was but all the way along following my ‘footprints in the sand experience last June’ felt it was the right thing to do (at least for most of the time!) The town centre is a 15 minute walk away or a few minutes on the bus from the top of my road.
I started going to the Methodist Church my first Sunday here and received a very warm welcome. (Note to Bill – 15 minute walk using footpaths.) The services are at 10:00 followed by tea/coffee ALWAYS SERVED BY THE MENFOLK and I’ve joined other weekly activities including Coffee and Cake with a chat on Friday mornings enabling me to get to know more people. I was amazed to discover that David Bedford and his wife Norma are in the Church Directory as they spend some weekends at their second home in Tuttington near here. Their main home is in London and David is the son of one of our former ministers at Lexden (1977-81) the Revd Reg Bedford. We were all surprised to meet up again here in Aylsham. Our Ruth used to babysit for them in the 1980’s when she lived in London. Small world!
I have many happy memories of people and special occasions over 40 years at LMC (most of which I shared with Hu) and will continue to remember you in my thoughts and prayers.
With special love to you all
The Hymn Writers
Philip Doddridge was born in London on 26th June 1702 the last of the twenty children of Daniel and Elizabeth. His father was a son of John Doddridge, rector of Shepperton, Middlesex, who was ejected from his living following the Act of Uniformity of 1662 and became a nonconformist minister. Philip’s mother was the orphan daughter of the Rev John Bauman, a Lutheran clergyman who had fled from Prague to escape religious persecution.
Before Philip could read, his mother began to teach him the history of the Old and New Testament from blue Dutch chimney-tiles on the chimney place of their sitting room. He was educated first by a private tutor then at a private school until 1712 he attended the grammar school at Kingston-upon-Thames.
His mother died when he was 8 years old and his father died 4 years later. He had a guardian named Downes who moved him to a private school in St Albans where he was much influenced by the Presbyterian minister Samuel Clark. Downes squandered Philip’s inheritance, leaving the orphaned thirteen year old destitute but Clark took him on, treating him as a son. Having remained lifelong friends, Doddridge preached at the funeral of his older friend remarking: "To him under God I owe even myself and all my opportunities of public usefulness in the church."
In 1723 he received an invitation to be pastor to an independent congregation at Northampton. He was a popular preacher and his sermons were mostly practical in character. His aim was to cultivate in his hearers a spiritual and devotional frame of mind. On 22 December 1730 he married Mercy Maris and they had nine children. The first, Elizabeth, died just before her fifth birthday and was buried under the altar of the Doddridge Chapel, Northampton. Four children survived to adulthood.
Throughout the 1730s and 1740s Philip Doddridge developed close relations with numerous early religious revivalists. He established a circle of influential religious thinkers and writers, including Dr Isaac Watts. He also became a prolific author and hymn writer. In 1736 both the universities at Aberdeen gave him the degree of Doctor of Divinity. Doddridge dedicated his book, The Rise and Progress of Religion in the Soul to Isaac Watts. He also wrote over 400 hymns. John Wesley stated, in the Preface to his Notes on the New Testament, that he was indebted to ‘the Family Expositor of the late pious and learned Dr Doddridge’ for some ‘useful observations’.
Philip Doddridge died on 26th Oct 1751.
Thank you to everyone for their contributions to this quarter’s newsletter.
Please let me have articles for the Summer 2015 edition by the start of June.
Christine Beesley – Editor