Recently I gave a talk to the Methodist Guild about Herbert. In the past I've shied away from him as a subject, thinking that everyone locally must either be an expert, or bored with him, and that I didn't really know enough, so I was surprised how few had heard of him. Although they sung his hymns, they thought them too complicated or difficult. All it took was a simple explanation of what some of the words mean, or the simile intended, for a whole new world to open up. I encourage you to try explaining the hymns a bit more - it will really help some people.
At last spring is here and Wilton House is open. Not for the fine furniture or architecture - no! There is a huge children’s play area which means my son Ned can run free and safe, while I look after my little daughter Bunty in the back pack and have a coffee. It's so much better for the children when the weather means they can play outside. I expect Herbert would have agreed.
Many of my concerns as the 46th Rector of Bemerton in 2009 seem the same as those of 22nd Rector in 1609, or the 23rd in 1630! (The 22nd actually went on to become Bishop of Winchester, but that’s a whole other story). Still we have the problems of getting people to church, of trying to broadcast the faith and make it infectious. Still we have a country in turmoil economically and socially (nothing changes), and still the church struggles to maintain and repair its buildings.
Whether it's the £4,000 we need for St. Andrew's, or the £40,000 we need for St. John's, it seems the church is always asking for money. Not a great place to be for an institution created to bless the world and give itself away. And whilst the fundraising and community building will continue for a long time for St. John's, I mustn't forget the other parts of my parish. At St. Michael’s church, which was all fields in Herbert’s day, the Trussell Trust is doing a fantastic job of running a FoodBank, a well used charity shop and a cafe.
There are still school assemblies in the secondary and 3 primaries to be done, and the local community network, and the round of funerals, weddings and baptisms to fill my days and nights. Never mind, there is fun to be had along the way - and the George Hebert medlar jelly went down a treat. This year I’ve got several jars left over, so watch out for them at the Parish Fete on July 4th, or at the upcoming summer events. Health and Safety regulations prevent me from selling it, but I can give it away!
A very rewarding part of my job is the people I meet along the way. Barry Ferguson is a composer and George Herbert fan. I got to know him through work on Another Music, and then his wife Sandi designed the new Flower card for us. They are regular attendees at our Herbert events, and are so encouraging and full of joy. It was Barry who suggested the organ in St. Andrew's is not up to scratch and that a piano would be better. Happily, with the changes at St.Johns we have a good quality instrument going spare. So we are moving the organ to Bob Paine’s house, where he can practice as long and loud as he likes, and we will enjoy a piano again.
Our website is updated every three months or so. Please carry on visiting so we can keep you up to date with the news from Bemerton Parish.