Thursday, September 7, 2023 - 09:08

I’ve always liked October. For one thing, it’s the month of my birthday. But it’s also that month where, often, autumn really arrives. It can still be warm, but you get those autumnal mornings.

The quality of the light has changed. The leaves have turned and maybe fallen. And, thanks to a television quiz for bringing it to my attention, it is also technically the longest month of the year by one hour.

After the transitions of a new school year, staff and students settle into their new routine. We celebrate harvest. It’s a great month.

This year, I have been particularly looking forward to October because I will be going on a week’s placement to Norwich Cathedral.

Each curate in the diocese is given the opportunity to spend a week at the cathedral, immersing themselves in the unique ministry of that type of foundation and treating it almost as a retreat. It is an excellent chance to find a new pattern of daily prayer, quietness and reflection in a busy world.

We all need that kind of chance from time to time. Whether it is a week in some kind of retreat centre or a break from the normal routine, a day spent out in nature or a few minutes grabbed in the middle of the day, we need those times to refocus ourselves.

What is it that matters to us? What things do we unexpectedly find don’t matter to us anymore? What do we need to do or change or stop doing in order to become the person God has called us to be?

Many of the churches in our benefice are open daily if you find that you want to experience some quiet reflection.

This autumn, why not pause in your day and spend some time in one of our historic buildings that have known centuries of prayer? They are your parish churches, after all.

Revd Richard Turk, Assistant Curate, Reepham and Wensum Valley Team Churches

Wednesday, June 28, 2023 - 08:52

As I write this, I have just passed the first anniversary of becoming a priest (and the second of being ordained deacon). But the anniversaries made me think about how each of us can serve God in our own way.

Each of our communities has a church building in it and that building has been there for hundreds of years. But the church isn’t just the building: it’s the body of believers. That church spreads across our area and beyond.

Each person in that community serves God in their own way because each of us is called to be the individual that we are. This church will survive because it doesn’t depend on a building.

But what of our buildings? Many of them are iconic, historic landmarks. People visit them during the day for peace and quiet and because they get a sense that something is different about them.

Perhaps it is the fact that people have come to pray and worship in these buildings for hundreds of years? Perhaps it is because whole families are represented in the history of the place? After all, our church buildings have witnessed centuries of baptisms, weddings and funerals, not to mention the weekly acts of worship.

Whatever the reason, people value the church buildings in their communities. Yet the struggle to maintain the buildings and keep them open and available is increasing. The likelihood of meeting a member of the clergy in the community is decreasing, though not because we are becoming less active.

The church, in terms of the worshipping community, is becoming more reliant on lay people to make continuing services viable, and the church, in terms of the buildings, is becoming more reliant on people outside the worshipping community but inside the community of the village, whether that be for cleaning, flower arranging, maintenance, opening the doors each day, keeping the churchyard tidy, contributing financially to the upkeep… it all helps.

So this summer, as I think about how I have been called to serve God in my own way as a priest, I encourage you to think about how you might be able to serve God in your own way and how you might be able to support your local church so that it can continue to provide services of all kinds and be there for the baptisms, weddings and funerals of the future.

As members of the clergy, we are happy to chat about our faith and about any faith you may have. Why not seek us out and explore more about what it means to serve God here?

Richard Turk, Assistant Curate, Reepham and Wensum Valley Team Churches

Wednesday, June 14, 2023 - 17:23

For my retreat for 2023 (yes, clergy have retreat time each year) I am walking St Cuthbert’s Way, from Melrose to Holy Island, around 60 miles, so 15 miles a day over four days.

St Cuthbert is a famous Celtic (indigenous) saint who studied at Melrose Abbey.

As a young person he saw a bright light going to heaven as he looked after livestock. He had a sense that this was a saint being taken to heaven.

He later found out it was St Aidan who took Christianity to Lindisfarne (Holy Island). Later, Cuthbert followed St Aidan to become Bishop there.

The way is significant as it is not flat and includes the Cheviot Hills plus a stop at Jedburgh and St Cuthbert’s cave, all of which are described as “thin places”.

“Thin places” are what Celtic Christians used to describe a place where heaven and earth touch – and there is a really tangible sense of holiness and awe.

Lindisfarne is also like this. It feels that lots of prayerful people have walked the soil and you connect with love/God more easily.

So I am off walking, thinking, praying, learning, meeting people and listening out for the holiness around us, just a breath away.

For all your journeying over the summer I hope you are richly blessed to and return refreshed, reconnected and rejuvenated.

Revd Helen Rengert, Team Rector, Reepham and Wensum Valley Team Churches

Wednesday, May 17, 2023 - 18:30

Over the past year I have been studying both practically and theologically for a certification in pastoral supervision. This is journeying with a person so that a new insight and wisdom is revealed in a fresh way and can then be applied to work.

I have really appreciated the process model that uses the visual image of the Greenwich Foot Tunnel. As a visual learner, having a picture and place in mind really helps. Google it, if you have never been. It is a fun place to visit.

In the supervision process you go on a journey to discover a deeper need. You then work on that creatively using a range of tools, such as picture cards, small world objects, paper and colouring pens.

With your supervisor, who facilitates and does not talk too much, you have a horao (Greek for “to see with the eyes”) moment. This gives a sense of wonder and enlightenment, to perceive afresh. As you come up from this deep work you look at how you can apply that new seeing to a job-focused situation.

It reminds me of Jonah in the whale having to go deep, then waiting for an “aha!” moment before being thrown up onto the beach ready for his mission to Nineveh.

It has given me insight and wisdom that helps my work and I have seen colleagues gain this too as I help facilitate as supervisor.

Learning new skills and adding to your skill base is always fun. Next month I am hoping to learn some pottery techniques, which I am really looking forward to, and then in September I am starting a longer pottery course. I encourage you to think about doing something new and being curious.

We have a confirmation group starting in late June. If you would like to join in please let me know. (If you have been baptised and are 10 years or older and want to make more of a Christian commitment or if you want to come along and refresh.)

The date for the confirmation is 22 October at St Mary’s Reepham.

Revd Helen Rengert, Team Rector, Reepham and Wensum Valley Team Churches

Thursday, April 6, 2023 - 14:20

King Charles III was well ahead of his time. He highlighted the needs of the environment and ecology in the 1970 and 80s. When trees fall down in the woodlands around Balmoral Castle, King Charles has them removed by horse, causing less damage to the remaining woodland.

He has an eco-friendly house at Highgrove House with solar panels on the roof; in winter it is heated by wood-fuelled biomass boilers. The house and gardens are chemical-free and food waste makes compost. There is also a wildflower meadow, kitchen garden and sundial garden, and the plants are watered with collected rainwater and leftover bathwater.

In 1990 he set up an organic food brand that supports the King’s charities. He also highlighted the needs of young people, setting up the Prince’s Trust in 1976, which has done amazing work for those from more disadvantaged backgrounds. This has helped more than a million people change their lives for the better.

He has learnt from a wise mother, saying: “Queen Elizabeth was a life well lived; a promise with destiny kept… that promise of lifelong service I renew to you all today.”

As we approach lots of celebrations around the Reepham and Wensum Valley Team Churches area, we remember his words “in the ability of each person to touch, with goodness and compassion, the lives of others and to shine a light in the world around them”.

Whether we are royalists or not, this is a time as a nation to come together and help each other, to volunteer on Monday and to share food together on Sunday and enjoy each other’s company.

There will be church celebration services on Sunday 7 May at 10.30 am in Weston Longville, Reepham and Elsing.

Revd Helen Rengert, Team Rector, Reepham and Wensum Valley Team Churches

Friday, March 17, 2023 - 15:38

Revd Keith Rengert has started his new role as school chaplain for the Synergy Multi-Academy Trust. He visits four high schools each week and mentors around up to 30 students and supports staff, helping with pastoral needs of the young people as well as helping them.

Keith has found that lots of people need support with bereavement issues, trauma issues (situations at home and in the wider family), confidence needs and classroom concentration needs – some are linked to past trauma situations.

The thing I have noticed is that teachers and support staff now have to be social workers. Social services can only deal with highly acute and chronic family situations leaving schools and other community groups to support our children, young people and families.

There are many families working well enough yet there are some on the brink, and accessing mental health and social care is so difficult.

As a community we need to be aware of those who need support mechanisms around them without undermining people’s autonomy.

Jesus said “come to me all who are weak and heavy laden and I will give you rest”. The church community is here for you – don’t struggle on your own if this is ringing bells for you.

We are here to help signpost you to good helpful resources and give you a sense of rest and support.

May Easter be for you an opportunity to see the miracle of new life when darkness is lit up with goodness and love. This is the resurrection power of God’s love in and through Jesus.

Revd Helen Rengert, Team Rector, Reepham and Wensum Valley Team Churches

Saturday, February 11, 2023 - 17:36

March sees the feast days of two saints who are particularly important to the United Kingdom: St David and St Patrick, the patron saints of Wales and Ireland respectively. Legend surrounds both. But both of these patron saints seem to me to hold more sway over, and capture the imagination of, people than the patron saint of England, George.

Perhaps this has something to do with the way we look at ourselves? Patrick and David were both British; George was not. Patrick and David were said to have been great speakers and to have brought people to faith in Christ by talking to them and engaging in human relationships and interactions. George was held up as the ideal knight and his popularity during the crusades helped him to be established as our patron.

These days we don’t see ourselves as crusaders or warriors. We value human relationships and we’re far more likely to get involved with something because of the personal recommendation of a friend. St Patrick and St David operate on a level that we instinctively respond to. But maybe it’s something even deeper than that.

There is enough scope for historical arguments that all three saints existed outside of legend. But George never visited Britain. Patrick and David did. They walked the countryside that we walk. They lived in the places we still live

When you read this, I will have not long returned from a holiday in Pembrokeshire: while there, I will have walked the countryside. I may have stood in places where David stood. That is a connection between the past and present that inspires people’s hearts and minds.

I think it’s why so many people like old church buildings: when you stand or sit in one you can feel the history of all the people who stood or sat in the same place over the hundreds of years before you did.

There is something about physical presence. We connect more readily to saints who were physically present where we are. We value the physical presence of a church that has remained a landmark in our communities, sometimes for as long as we have had a community. These places connect us with our ancestors like anchors in time, while things around them change and develop.

So, if you ever have the need to feel connected to those who have come before; if you ever feel the need to experience the peace that generations of others have experienced in a place; if you want to spend a little while feeling anchored in time, instead of being pulled backwards and forwards by unpredictable tides, your local church is there for you. Just pop in and sit, stand or kneel. “Be” in a place, as so many others have been before.

Richard Turk, Assistant Curate, Reepham and Wensum Valley Team Churches

Tuesday, October 11, 2022 - 12:32

I spent the first two weeks in the cathedral flat near the close. This was a good place to “ground” my sabbatical, to reflect upon what exactly a sabbatical was/is.

I knew I was not on “holiday”, although rest was a large part of it. I knew it was not “study leave” or “retreat”, although I read and prayed.

I discovered and concluded that although a sabbatical was not one of the above activities specifically, it was all of them concurrently.

I spent another six weeks in my motorhome on sites in North Norfolk. I needed to be away from the parishes without being too far from my family and also had a couple of weeks on the Essex coast.

Here I was able to read. Work-related reading consisted mostly of Living in Love and Faith in its entirety – 400+ pages.

At first, I found this quite hard going and wondered how I would get through it. The personal testimonies and viewpoints incorporated made for a challenging read for what is a very challenging situation.

I was also able to take more time over reading the Northumbria Community’s novitiate modules as part of my own ongoing spiritual development/growth.

A personal project I undertook was to transcribe my late mother’s diaries about me and my siblings’ childhoods. These are an amusing, reflective and at times sad account of a mother and housewife in the late 1960s, 1970s and early 1980s.

I served on the house team at Nether Springs, Northumberland, the home of the Northumbria Community, which was founded in the late 1980s and is the author of the Celtic Daily Prayer series.

To serve in this way and to facilitate others to have a retreat and to connect/reconnect with God was a truly awesome and humbling experience.

I also took the chance to walk to the Holy Island of Lindisfarne across the sands following the ancient path walked by centuries of pilgrims and the ancient saints.

Perhaps the biggest surprise of all for me was to, voluntarily and enthusiastically, participate in dance in worship on Lindisfarne.

This is something I had only ever done once before, under duress, some 15+ years ago. I vowed then – never again! This just goes to show, never say never to God.

I have also been seriously challenged during this sabbatical time to review just how my own relationship with God relates to my role as a parish priest, reflecting most challengingly on the fact that I have always trusted my call to ordination.

I am now in a challenging, exciting and daunting phase of discernment as to where my vocation is going next.

My time in Northumbria has refreshed my resolve to “live the questions” and, if necessary, to step out in faith into what I believe is the right next step for me.

Revd. Keith Rengert, Team Vicar, Reepham and Wensum Valley Team Churches

Wednesday, September 7, 2022 - 20:20

Last month, Revd Helen Rengert reflected on a book that clergy throughout the diocese were given about village churches thriving.

One of the sections in the publication was on welcoming more people into our churches, and I thought I would reflect on that this month.

The book commented on how many of us in the church worry that our congregations don’t reflect our communities. This got me thinking.

Over the summer, I volunteered on a Scripture Union beach mission. Scripture Union is currently trying to reach the 95% of children who are “outside” the church.

Both this aim and the book’s comments made me wonder whether we worry because we look at things from a particular view.

Perhaps it is simply that our Sunday congregations don’t always reflect the community in which the church is placed.

Actually, when we think of all the people who have contact with the church in some form, we can be more hopeful.

Many people have contact with the church through fetes and coffee mornings, groups for the isolated, the chance to ring bells, communion for the housebound or simply visiting in the quiet of the day.

Our churches see numerous baptisms, weddings and funerals every year, and these services bring many people into contact with our churches.

Children are no exception to this extended network of contact with the church. Each of the schools in our benefice is regularly in contact with the church in some form, not just the church schools.

And we are observing that it is the children who are more comfortable in the church buildings than the adults are. We hope to build on this positive contact over the coming months.

So our Sunday congregations might not always be representative of the communities they are in, but the people that we welcome and have contact with are spread more widely. And we hope and pray that seeds are sown that might one day bear fruit.

But Jesus also demonstrated a different kind of hospitality: he didn’t just welcome people into his presence, he went and shared hospitality with people where they were.

Perhaps those readers who don’t come to church might consider what it is they would like to share with their local church?

Is there something you feel we could do together? Is there something we could help one another with?

Our churches are part of the community, and the welcome we show and receive should be for all.

Revd Richard Turk, Assistant Curate, Reepham and Wensum Valley Team Churches

Friday, August 5, 2022 - 08:16

Us vicars have been given a book called How village churches thrive. Here are the key points (what do you think, does it hit the mark for you?):

  1. Warm welcome: Making your church as welcoming as your home, structuring your welcome around strangers is key and these changes enable growth.
  2. Life events (baptism, wedding, funeral): There is a link between life events and faith journeys. It’s good to find ways to involve more people from the local church community and keep in touch with new contacts.
  3. Creative use of buildings: Ancient church buildings are a huge asset and provide limitless creative opportunities for communities, welcome and wonder. There are ways to share responsibility across the wider community.
  4. Care of creation: Churchyards draw people and we can build on this interest to engage a whole community to love and care for the churchyard. It is a visible expression of the fifth Mark of Mission: “to strive to safeguard the integrity of creation and sustain and renew the life of the earth”.
  5. At the heart of community: The church can effect positive change in village life and for community engagement: “I am because we are.” We can utilise community audits to help collaborative leadership.
  6. Celebrating heritage: Heritage presents great opportunities to build relationships with new people. Its locally embedded and broad something-for-everyone and new tech provide new ways to present churches to people who visit and those further afield.
  7. Fruitful festivals: Unique contributions to rural festivals and genuine spiritual encounters with ideal opportunities for celebration, innovation and welcome.
  8. Young people focused: Engaging young people as a priority – villages are great settings for creative work, collaborating with others and boosting funding opportunities.
  9. Care for those who are isolated and lonely: Understanding isolation more and give opportunities for rural churches to be part of the solution so we have ways to initiate care to those most in need.
  10. Effective communications: Communication with a wider audience with three key questions: what’s your message, who you are trying to reach and what’s the best way – and then setting up and managing commonly used communications channels.

Please do let us know if you have any questions or queries about your village church and how best we can work collaboratively with you.

Confirmation course

A confirmation course is being held for adults looking over your faith again if you’ve been confirmed for a long time to refresh you or if you’d love to be confirmed into the Christian faith as a member of the Anglican CofE church or want to find out more about faith. The course will be held on Wednesdays from 14 September led by the Ministry Team at St Michael’s Reepham from 7.30 pm onwards.

A confirmation service will be held at Swannington on 27 November (Advent Sunday) at 10.30 am led by the Bishop of Norwich, the Rt Revd Graham Usher. Please telephone 01603 875275 to book a place or to ask any questions.

Watch this space for the youth confirmation course (10+) – to be confirmed.

Revd Helen Rengert, Team Rector, Reepham and Wensum Valley Team Churches