Tag Archives: Rev Jo Richards

Praying, with thanks, for Queen Elizabeth

Picture from Wikipedia.

From Rev Jo Richards, Rector of Saint Dunstan, Saint Mildred and Saint Peter, Canterbury.

We give thanks for the life of Queen Elizabeth, but also mourn her loss. Not only has she been a Christian witness but led by example, a true disciple of Christ who will be missed by many, all around the world. Someone who has just always been there. 

‘Go forth from this world O Christian soul, in the name of the love of God the Father who created you, in the mercy of Jesus Christ who redeemed you, in the power of the Holy Spirit who strengthens you. Amen’

A Prayer on the death of her Her Majesty The Queen

Gracious God we give thanks for the life of your servant Queen Elizabeth

For her faith and her dedication to duty.

Bless our nation as we mourn her death

and may her example continue to inspire us;

through Jesus Christ our Lord

Amen

Eternal rest grant unto her, O Lord, and let Your perpetual light shine upon her. May her soul and the souls of all the faithful departed rest in peace, and rise in glory. Amen.

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30 August: The Train has come and I’m on my way

Northern Ireland Railways, July 1969.

Here is a recent sermon by Rev Jo Richards of Canterbury, from the texts: Genesis 15:1-6, Hebrews 11.1-3, 8-16. Luke 12:32-40. It makes for another reflection on life, death and what faith means.

Bill’s poem….

The Train has come and I’m on my way, 
I didn’t need a ticket 
And there was nothing to pay. 

My lass will be waiting, on that I am sure 
What a wonderful meeting 
With a future that will endure.

On Thursday I took a funeral of a local man; Bill and he wrote poems; he asked that The Last Poem, be read at his funeral, which was read in full just before the commendation: I have read to you with the family’s permission the opening verses.

I knew Bill, and in his writing, there is such a sense of moving from this mortal life to the next, that is eternal life. For Bill was assured of things hoped, for the conviction of things not seen. Bill had a deep Christian faith

Bill had a sense of the hope, of knowing that one day the train would stop, he would get on board and continue his onward journey to eternal life.

Abraham was also a man of deep faith and also on a journey. Here we have someone in his mid-seventies, who heard a call from God to up sticks with his barren wife Sarah and leave home. Obedient to God’s call they became nomads, setting off from Harran, which is in modern day Iraq, travelling through Syria, down to Egypt, and then up to the land of Canaan, which is in the present-day West Bank, in Palestine.

During this time, directed by God, Abraham gazes at the night sky trying in vain to imagine his descendants as numerous as the stars, whilst Sarah, his wife remains heartbreakingly barren.

I wonder what Abraham and Sarah must have been thinking; surely they must have had doubts along the way, of perhaps being cross with God, who has taken them out of what has been familiar and comfortable and sent them on this journey into the unknown, and then telling them they will have children, but despite this they had faith in what God said and set off and set off.

I want us to think for a moment what does our faith mean to us? Would we have done what Abraham and Sarah did?

Perhaps like Bill and Abraham we are on a journey of faith; assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen; but that is not always easy to describe when asked what your faith means to you.

Some might describe their faith in terms of creeds and as we do when we recite the creed; From a doctrinal or theological perspective. At baptism either the godparents or those who speak for themselves are asked about their faith and what they believe.

How do you describe your faith?

Faith is perhaps turning our heads and looking at the stars that sense of awe and wonder, that sense that there is something far greater than what we can see, feel or hear, yet we are still loved and cherished by God our creator.

Faith is perhaps that sense of knowing deep within ourselves knowing that we are not alone, that there is a greater presence of which we get glimpses of from time to time;

Faith is perhaps that longing for the eternal home – that place of peace, love and joy where there are no more suffering or tears. That place we call heaven, eternal life. That feeling of longing, and desire; for Abraham and Sarah their faith took them on a perilous journey, to take them where God was leading, not that they knew where they were going or how they would get there.

Faith is not a destination, more like a journey, and we often say we are all on a journey of faith, with each of us on a different point of that journey; some are just setting out whilst others more established but we can all sometimes be thrown off course, just as Peter was when he was walking on water. He took his eyes off Jesus and sank in the sea, but Jesus put his arm out and caught him.

But I am sure like Peter and doubting Thomas, our faith may have wobbled, and we may have had doubts. Thomas was with Jesus for three years and yet he doubted that he had been raised from the dead, which perhaps gives us permission to question or even doubt at times.

And perhaps when we do question or doubt then something might happen that reaffirms our faith; just this week I heard of how someone had their faith restored by an act of kindness; it is often the little things that we do or say that can have such a big impact on others. Time and time again we hear of people saying I don’t know what I would do if I didn’t have my faith.

Perhaps the opposite of faith is not doubt, but apathy – of not being alert and awake, as our Gospel suggests, of staying put and not willing to journey forth; Faith in a way is a response to an invitation to a journey of adventure; it’s not blind faith. We nurture our faith through worship, scripture, talking to other people, praying and for those small what I call God moments – moments when we sense God’s promptings and act on them.

Twice in this week’s readings we hear the words do not be afraid, by nurturing our faith it gives us the strength to face things that may frighten us or make us anxious. We can draw on these moments of remembering that God is with us in the everyday stuff as well as the ups and downs of life. As did the servants in our gospel reading, who were faithful doing the everyday mundane things, and ended up as the master’s guests at the great celebration.

Faith is perhaps a knowledge of God and a deep rooted heart felt desire to want to know God better – to find out what God is doing and join in, just as Bill did, Abraham and Sarah did, and the master’s slaves did.

So, we venture forward on our journey of faith may we give thanks for what we have already experienced of God’s love for us and what is still to come…and give thanks for the gift of faith, as we reflect upon what our faith means to us.

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25 June: What is your name?

This was Rev Jo Richards’ Sermon at the Canterbury benefice of Saints Dunstan, Mildred and Peter, for the first Sunday after Trinity 19 June 2022. We share it with her permission. Thank you, Jo! 19 June was the start of Refugee Week, it closes today. Recently we must all have become more aware of the allied challenges of Exile and Homelessness, which Jo addresses here; the picture shows a camp of homeless people beside Saint Mildred’s church. Rev Jo’s text is Luke 8: 26-39.

May I speak in the name of the Father, Son & Holy Spirit.

Welcome! Young people who are here today, welcome, old people, also those who may be students, welcome, married people and divorced people, welcome; gay people, trans people, welcome; happy people and sad people welcome, every kind of family, welcome. Welcome to those of all faiths and those without, welcome and welcome to agnostics, saints & pilgrims.

Those are the words on our welcome board that you would have passed as you came in today. It says that we seek to be an inclusive community and we care about issues including homelessness, poverty, disability, mental health, the environment, racial justice and lgbtqia+ issues. Those on-line and here in person, welcome; this church is for you.

As this is also refugee Sunday, marking the beginning of refugee week, welcome to all refugees past and present. As Jesus himself was once a refugee fleeing persecution to a safe country.

As we set our sights on Jesus and follow his example, today’s gospel reading gives us insight of Jesus’ inclusive welcome to all.

There is a lot that is unclean in this story; first the man himself. People with mental illness in pre-scientific days, were considered to be demon-possessed. They were condemned and cast out from society and had to take refuge. As they were considered dead and useless to society they were banished as outcasts to live amongst the dead in tombs. This man was homeless, and had no friends not wanted or loved; he was lonely and pitiful. He was surrounded by the pigs, caked in mud, who were also considered to be unclean by Jewish society.

But this man recognises who Jesus is, recognising him as the son of God. Jesus saw this man for who he was; he stops and asks that very natural question. What is your name? He may have been unclothed, alone, tied up and beaten like a mad dog, but once he would have had a name, and Jesus wants to know.

Jesus identifies this person as a human being and by asking him that basic question, what is your name, he is restoring this man’s humanity, this is the beginning of his healing.

Consider the homeless of our cities, who are often outcast with no homes to go to; those who also have issues concerning their mental health; those who live in the tombs of our city, amongst the rubbish; those we pass by who might live in the door way of Poundland, or outside Wilko’s, those who live in the tents at St Mildred’s; those who sleep outside VegBox every night, and those who sit at Westgate Towers, picture them for a moment.

These people are our parishioners, for they live in our Benefice, albeit on the streets, often through no fault of their own. When I was licenced to the Benefice, I was given the cure of souls of all those who live in our Benefice, including the homeless, so I often stop and chat, and ask them their name.

It is often through stopping and listening that you get to hear the back story. To give someone the time of day is the biggest gift we can give, sometimes I buy a coffee, rarely money, but time and conversation doesn’t cost a penny. What is your name?

The other day I was chatting to a chap, someone who wanted to know when St Mildred’s was open as he wanted some quiet time, so I said it was unfortunately shut, but St Dunstan’s was open for prayer. He had with him a beautiful leather holdall. I asked him about it, his mum had given it to him for his tools. He had done his BA in art, then his masters and woodwork was his passion and in it he carried his precious tools and all his worldly goods.

What is your name asks Jesus? Jesus recognises this person as a human being and can see beyond the squalor in which the man in our reading lives. He sees beyond his mental health, he sees a human being with a name, a human being that was once loved, and Jesus heals him.

Consider the bystanders who witnessed this event, who saw this miracle. I wonder why they are afraid, and they beg Jesus to go and the healed man wants to go too with Jesus; but no, instead Jesus commissions this man, who was this homeless down and out, as an evangelist. He tells him to go home and tell others how much God has done for him. Jesus expects him to be a messenger of the good news. I wonder who would listen to him; those who had known him before and their preconceived ideas of what this homeless man can offer, but Jesus knows, sees him for who he really is and commissions him.

On my prayer walk the other day I met this man who was homeless, and he was lying on the wall, so I stopped and had a chat. I asked him his name; he replied, I can’t remember the last time someone stopped me and asked me my name, and said see me as a human being – my name he said is Matthew, as in Matthew Mark, Luke and John.

Paul reminds us there is no longer Jew or Greek, no longer slave or free, there is no longer male and female, for all of you are one in Christ Jesus .

So going back to our welcome poster. This church is for you, with our inclusive welcome for all. So perhaps a challenge for us all this refugee week, is to perhaps stop and ask that life changing question, what is your name. Be it to someone over coffee in the hall or someone who sits in the tombs of our city. Amen.


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Meat Free Lent XII: Braised Eggs with Leek and Za’atar

Margaret Shaw – St Dunstan’s Church

(brackets) = for half the quantity

30g unsalted butter (15g) 
2 tbsp olive oil (1 tbsp - done in two stages) 
2 large leeks (or 4 smaller) trimmed and cut into ½cm slices (530g) (265g - be generous) 
1 tsp cumin seeds, toasted and lightly crushed (half tsp) 
2 small, preserved lemons: pips discarded, skin and flesh finely chopped (30g) (15g) 
300ml vegetable stock (150ml) 
200g baby spinach leaves (100g) 
6 large eggs (3 or 2 eggs) 
90g feta, broken into 2cm pieces (45g)
1 tbsp za’atar (half tbsp) 
salt and black pepper

It’s a dish as happily eaten for brunch, with coffee, as it is for a light supper with some crusty white bread and a glass of wine. The leeks and spinach can be made up to a day ahead and kept in the fridge, ready for the eggs to be cracked in and braised.

1.    Put the butter and 1 tablespoon of oil into a large sauté pan, for which you have a lid, and place on a medium high heat. Once the butter starts to foam, add the leeks, ½ teaspoon of salt and plenty of pepper. Fry for 3 minutes, stirring frequently, until the leeks are soft. Add the cumin, lemon and vegetable stock and boil rapidly for 4–5 minutes, until most of the stock has evaporated. Fold in the spinach and cook for a minute until wilted, then reduce the heat to medium.

2.    Use a large spoon to make 6 indentations in the mixture and break one egg into each space. Sprinkle the eggs with a pinch of salt, dot the feta around the eggs, then cover the pan. Simmer for 4–5 minutes, until the egg whites are cooked but the yolks are still runny.

3.    Mix the za’atar with the remaining tablespoon of oil and brush over the eggs. Serve at once, straight from the pan.

The last word and blessing to all from Rev Jo:

God Bless and have a good day,

Rev Jo Richards.

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Going Viral XCV: cancel culture?

Good morning to you all, and hope this finds you well as we here at the Rectory – Christmas tree is up – we always get ours from Nash Farm in Faversham, where one pays into a charity for the tree and we then take it back after Christmas to be re-planted. Something we have done for years ever since the children were tiny – now it is just Jim & I, but all for such a good cause.

Cancellations – having discussed with all the relevant people it has been decided to cancel the following activities, because of the increase of covid and in particular the Omicron variant. To date all our scheduled Christmas services, except for Messy Church Christingle, are as planned. Please keep an eye on briefings & bulletin for updates. The wearing of face coverings is mandatory in places of worship, unless exempt.

  • Saturday Morning Coffee at St Dunstan’s Hall – Cancelled until further notice.
  • Rectory Drinks Saturday 18th December: Cancelled – hopefully postponed to the New Year
  • Benefice Bring & Share Lunch 19 December: Cancelled
  • St Dunstan’s Lunch Club: Weds 5th January Cancelled
  • Messy Church January 2nd: Cancelled

Saint Peter’s keys on his church tower, Canterbury.

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Going viral XCIII: Christmas is planned!

Mary and her Child, St Mildred, Canterbury.

I had to collect a couple of things from Saint Mildred’s. It was good to see the church all empurpled for Advent, the place is truly beloved.

Rev Jo Richards was in evidence too, alleluia. She has been isolating, even from her family, after a positive test for Covid-19. Sharing meals with the family via Whats App took some getting used to, but the rectory has an annexe that could have been designed just for this.

Not being able to get out and about enabled Rev Jo to spend time preparing for the next few weeks. As she told me: ‘Advent is planned, Christmas is planned!’

Thank God neither Jo nor Jenny, her curate, had many symptoms of the disease, and are both back at work. And let’s pray for all those who continue to be affected by the disease, and all for whom Christmas will mean an empty place at table which cannot be replaced by Whats App.

And may all who have died from the disease rest in peace, Amen.

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Going Viral LXXVI: an international congregation.

Saint Dunstan’s, Canterbury.

A message from Revd Jo Richards on an unusual aspect of parish life.


Live streaming at St Dunstan’s:
 Thank you to the PCC, and in particular Martin Ward for getting the ball rolling in installing our wifi, camera and getting us up and running with Church Services TV; this has been very much appreciated by us all but especially folk whose funerals we are taking – last Monday we had a funeral with 126 attendees from around the world, 21 countries, on all continents, including Democratic Republic of Timor-Leste; all these folk coming to the funeral virtually – it is so very much appreciated. Thank you.

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Going Viral LXXIV: Time for Reflection.

St Mildred’s Church, Canterbury.

It was only late last night that I saw this from Revd. Jo: some prayers, offered for the day of reflection on the effects of Covid-19, from the Church of England:

Reflect

Loving God, 
You hold all our times in your hands, our past, our present, our future. Be close to us now as we remember all the difficulties and disappointments of the past year. Be especially close to all of us who are thinking of someone we loved and knew, but see no longer, whether family, friend, colleague or neighbour. Help us to trust that they are at peace with you, and comfort us with your presence. 

Connect

Loving God, 
You place us in families and communities, and we give you thanks for all those around us who serve us and help us in so many ways. Give wisdom to community leaders, to our schools, hospitals, care homes and other agencies who make a difference to our lives. Help each of us to have the courage to reach out with thanks and kindness to those around us and to speak words of faith as we share the good news of your love.

Hope

Loving God, 
As we journey towards Easter, help us to live as people of hope, knowing that beyond the pain of the cross lies the joy of resurrection. Inspire us in our worship, through our churches and in our homes, that we may bring glory to you and joy to others. Be with those who are struggling in mind, body or spirit, and give courage to those who are facing uncertainty and change ahead. Help each of us to keep our eyes fixed on you, that we may reflect your light to all whom we meet.

Prayers

Dear God,
Be with us as we think about all that has changed this year,
And help us to trust that you are always with us.
Be close to us as we remember those who have died,
And help us to trust they are at peace with you.
Show us how to reach out to others with kindness and care,
So that hope shines out in every heart and home,
Amen
 
God of Love,
As we think about all that has changed this year,
help us to trust that you are always with us.
As we remember those who have died,
help us to trust they are at peace with you.
As we reach out to others with kindness and care,
may hope shine out in every heart and home.
Amen

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Going Viral LXVII: another cold and frosty morning.

St Peter’s keys

Another glimpse of life in Lockdown Canterbury.

Good morning to you all on another cold and frosty morning – it is very icy out there – going for my walk yesterday I rather glamorously slipped over on the ice, whilst heading up St Thomas’s Hill, all is well but be careful!
Morning prayer: https://youtu.be/E3J53B5PCtk
Today in Morning Prayer, we have been asked to remember another character: St. Scholastica, so a little bit about her… I love how we get to hear of these folk down the ages…
Scholastica (c. 480 – 10 February 543) is a saint of the Catholic Church, the Eastern Orthodox Churches and the Anglican Communion. She was born in Italy. According to a ninth century tradition, she was the twin sister of Benedict of Nursia.Her feast day is 10 February, Saint Scholastica’s Day. Scholastica is traditionally regarded as the foundress of the Benedictine nuns. Ref and more info: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Scholastica


Plastic Free Lent: With Lent beginning next week, Sami (from St Dunstan’s), Caroline Blamely who heads up our eco-church committee and myself are compiling a series of tips to help us reduce the amount of plastic we use in our lives – so much is changing a habit. So watch this space, as we will be publishing these tips in my daily brief, on our website, twitter account, instagram & Facebook – so watch this space.

Ash Wednesday: 17th February: This will be live-streamed from St Dunstan’s in the evening (7.30), 
Meanwhile, keep warm, it’s freezing, and am heading off to Barham Crematorium so prayers for another family mourning the loss of a loved one – it is so tough. Keep connected, keep well and keep praying!

God Bless, Jo

Rev Jo Richards Rector of the Benefice of St Dunstan, St Mildred and St Peter, Canterbury

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Going Viral LXIV: the reality of life at the moment

Good morning to you all and I hope this finds you all well, as we are here.
Yesterday was a stark reminder of the human toll that this virus has had on so many people with the death toll exceeding 100,00 numbers that are difficult to commute. The impact that has had on so many families and communities. Like many of you I am very aware of those who have lost their lives from this virus, and the devastating impact it has had on so many. We think of them today, and all those who are struggling with long-covid.
Over the course of the next 5 weeks or so I have 9 funerals in the diary – not all by any means are covid-related, but it is the reality of life at the moment, and the most I have ever had in such a short period of time. John today in leading morning prayer dedicated the service to all those who lost their lives, including the 880 NHS staff who have died from contracting the virus – of paying the ultimate sacrifice. It really makes one stop and think. Please keep all who mourn the loss of loved ones in your prayers.
Today is also Holocaust Memorial Day: a national commemoration day in the United Kingdom dedicated to the remembrance of those who suffered in the Holocaust, under Nazi persecution, and in subsequent genocides in Cambodia, Rwanda, Bosnia, and Darfur. It was first held in January 2001 and has been on the same date every year since. The chosen date is the anniversary of the liberation of Auschwitz concentration camp by the Soviet Union in 1945. Ref: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Holocaust_Memorial_Day_%28UK%29
It is times like this that when we see outside the shoots of spring, the snowdrops (Candlemas Bells), and the buds on the trees that we recognise the signs of hope. Jesus is the light of the world. Some of you may have heard the Archbishop talk with words of hope on the Today programme earlier this morning.

Words from one of today’s psalms: 46.10 “Be still and know that I am God”

Wherever you are, 
please do keep well, 
keep connected and keep praying.
God Bless,
Jo

Rev Jo RichardsRector of the Benefice of St Dunstan, St Mildred and St Peter, Canterbury

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