St Mary Magdalene Church, The Holmwood - A meeting place between God and people through Jesus Christ
Our A4 magazine goes free into 1100 homes around the parish.                                             

Revd Barbara Steadman-Allen, General Editor
Revd Barbara Steadman-Allen, General Editor
Maggie Myatt, proof reader extraordinaire
Maggie Myatt, proof reader extraordinaire
Sara Pearson and Kevin Abel, professional Design and Layout
Sara Pearson and Kevin Abel, professional Design and Layout
Kathy Wheeler, chases the adverts
Kathy Wheeler, chases the adverts

View from the Vicarage
It seems to me, having had many conversations
with people who don’t ‘go to church’, that it’s
the church as a state institution which has little
              attractiveness. What do you reckon?
If you think about it, we don’t like most of our state institutions. We distrust them at best. And the church gets pushed into that category.
Yet meet me and I hope that you feel valued, heard and encouraged. We might even have shared a laugh. But I am the official front window for the institutional thing! Meet any of the regular congregation over the garden fence or at the bus stop or on a dog walk, and if you’re not busy disentangling yapping hounds, you might get a half decent conversation or offer of help. Many of them take the lead in our village activities and groups. They’re part of the institutional thing too.
It’s as if there’s a kind of double-think about the church people we know and the church institution we think we know or might remember from the dim distant. They just don’t seem to be the same thing at all. So what’s going on?
I don’t know what your past experience of ‘church’ is. Maybe you would like to drop me an email and tell me why it put you off the church thing. If it hadn’t, you’d be up the hill in the biggest building on the Holmwood skyline, wouldn’t you? Or queuing up outside the Beare Green Village Hall like on a Saturday jumble sale morning. Maybe you never had the joy of experiencing church. Look, I won’t answer your mail unless you want me to, but I’d be jolly interested to know how that most winsome of characters, a bloke who won the trust of hard headed business men and fishermen and asked questions of the establishment, has been so cruelly misrepresented. What HAS the ‘church’ done to the public face of Jesus that no one seems to want to know him anymore? Was it always like this?
Maybe traditional church culture, beloved by those of us who know it but a foreign language to those who don't, might bepart of an answer. But you have to be aware that church culture is hugely caricatured by the media. Do Dad’s Army and Midsomer Murders really inform your view? Oh help. Why would I waste my time and life upfronting something so laughable? What goes on behind our heavy wooden door really isn’t like that. We enjoy a richly varied and (hopefully) accessible way of being together and being with Jesus, which is open to everyone.
Stay with me while I think aloud. I see the ‘church’ much more as an alternative society, perhaps rather subversive and definitely different. It doesn’t dance attendance on current fashions, trends and norms. So does that make belonging to it only for the brave-hearted? That’s certainly true in some countries around the world. But I do believe it’s the alternative many are secretly looking for, a clean, truthful and straightforward society, one characterised by, let’s say, love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control. Yes, that does sound rather like Utopia doesn’t it? Is it true that kind of alternative society exists in St MM Church or Café Church in Beare Green?
Well, in the words of one of my heroes (next in line to J.S. Bach), the Paul of Bible fame, ‘We have this light shining in our hearts, but we ourselves are like fragile clay jars containing this great treasure.’ No, it has to be said, we’re not yet perfect. And there will always be ladder-climbing individuals in the church motivated by power and competition – church history is peppered disastrously with them – but such an attitude is wholly inappropriate and certainly not Jesus'.

Potentially, the answer is yes. When Jesus comes back to be the Prime Minister of this worldwide alternative society, it’s absolutely, yes. Get a grip. Ditch the prejudice, the fear of what others might think, the comfort blanket of half memory and discover the reality of a society within society. Better still, belong to it. Public gathering: 10am Sundays.                                                                                                            Revd. BSA
* The Church of England Diocese of Guildford, which covers most of Surrey and north-east Hampshire and one church in West Sussex, was formed out of Winchester Diocese in 1927. It has a population of just over one million and over 28,000 regular worshippers. 



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