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A Note on Gift Aid

At the end of December 2016, weekly Gift Aid envelopes were discontinued in our three parishes of Axminster, Lyme Regis and Seaton.  Our parishes now take advantage of the Gift Aid Small Donation Scheme or ‘GASDS’ which allows us to claim back tax (within certain parameters) from cash put anonymously into the plate at Mass.

Understandably there was initial concern at the change, but the administrative burden on our parish volunteers is now very much lighter as there is now no need to record an individual’s donation each week.

Bank Standing Orders:

There are advantages to our parishes for individuals to donate by ‘Gift Aid’ by Bank Standing Order (BSO).  With the GASDS plate arrangement, there is an annual ceiling figure per parish above which tax cannot be claimed, so Parish Gift-Aid Organizers (and our Treasurer) would be happy to discuss Gift Aid with anyone who would like to become a donor in their own right. Our Gift-Aid contacts are:

Axminster – Peter Porteous
Lyme Regis – Mike Hamerton
Seaton – Tom and Julie Dunnon

Our Treasurer – Monica Watts-Hunt

Please see one of the above if you would like to become a Gift Aid donor through Bank Standing Order.

There is a new envelope for One-Off Gift Aid Donations

These envelopes will be held by the Parish Gift Aid parish contacts for the strict purpose of collecting ‘one-off’ donations from donors who are not registered in the parishes for Gift Aid. The occasions when these envelopes might be used are by visitors to the parish or for donations during special services such as a wedding. The envelopes are accountable to HMRC so our Parish contacts are briefed to give them out and collect them back for counting .

If you have any query concerning Gift Aid, please contact your church contact as above after Mass or call the Axminster presbytery office (number on the website).

Trinity Sunday

Have you ever met someone who’s in love with themselves? Someone who thinks they’re the best thing since sliced bread? Someone who thinks that the world just couldn’t do without them? I have, and I expect you’ve met people like that, too. They’re not really very pleasant because they love themselves so much that they never have time for anyone else. They can’t give love away, because they don’t have any left over. All very sad really, because they don’t actually know the meaning of love at all.

But I expect you’ve also met other people who really love someone else very much. Maybe you do. Perhaps your husband or wife, or a special friend. And in this case, if your love is one hundred per cent you’ll always put them first.
One of the things about love like this, about real love, is that it just can’t exist unless it’s shared with someone else. And when you’re very close to another person like this you often know what they’re thinking before they actually say anything. Two people in love really do, as the song says, “become one”.

When two people are in love, one of them never takes first place over the other. Real lovers are equals because love never tries to control or to take charge. Love always accepts the other person for what he or she is, and is always looking for ways to grow. A good example of this is a man and woman who give themselves to each other in love. And if a child is born out of this love, it’s almost as if the baby is the love, in person, which the two people have for each other.
We could say that the two people who’ve become one in their love, share that oneness with the new independent life which comes from, but is at the same time, a part of it.

I don’t know whether you’ve ever seen that old Michael Cain film “Alfie”; but the theme tune goes: “What’s it all about, Alfie?”.
And that’s quite a good question for all of us to ask ourselves. What’s it all about? Why are we here? Do we just live for a few years and then die? What’s the point of it all? The big question is “Why is there something instead of nothing?”
An atheist would say that the whole universe is really meaningless and there’s no point at all to our existence.
But most people don’t believe this. Most people believe that God created the universe, and then, the next big question is; “Why would God do that?”
Well, we know from our own experience that real love is just about the strongest force there is. And because God is responsible for all that is, then he must be totally soaked in love.

But, just a minute; we said just now that real love can’t exist in one person by themselves, and so in a way which is really beyond our understanding we have to say that this one God is somehow a family of love in himself. Christians summarise all of this by speaking of the love of God as being shared between God as Father and God as Son, and they go on to say that the love which the Father and the Son have for each other finds expression through the Holy Spirit. A third person in this community of love which we call God.

This one God is always trying to grow his love and to draw everything into the relationship which is the heart of his being. That’s why through the Holy Spirit He created the Universe. That’s why , through the Holy Spirit, the Son of God took human flesh and came into our world as Jesus of Nazareth.
If you read your Bible you’ll realise that Jesus knew he was one with God the Father; united in love which let him share the very mind of God. He knew that God wanted to bring everything that He’d created into a sharing of His life of love. Everything , including all of us here this morning. That’s the Good News, the Gospel, which Jesus taught.

We are all the product of God’s love. We are all very precious to Him. He loves us all equally and doesn’t have any favourites.
God became man in Jesus, so that in Jesus we could become joined to God. That’s the meaning of the love of God.
A love which is so big that He gives Himself away to us in Jesus so that our lives might become one with His. So that we might actually share in His divinity. So that through the Holy Spirit we might share in the love which the Father and the Son have for each other.

So that we might share in the love of the Holy Trinity whose special day we are remembering at this Mass.   Amen.

Pentecost

Today we celebrate the Feast of Pentecost, and we rejoice at that great outpouring of the Holy Spirit into the lives of the first followers of Jesus. An event which is often referred to as the Church’s birthday.

But for reasons which will soon become obvious, I’m going to begin by taking you back to the Feast of the Ascension; a Feast which we celebrated just a week ago.

Now, one of the most important things about the Ascension is that it teaches us something new about heaven. It teaches us that because Jesus took it there, our human nature is always in the presence of God

 And today, as a result of Pentecost, as a result of the coming of the Holy Spirit in this new way, God’s life is also made permanently present through human life. So you see, Ascension and Pentecost actually go together. They link the human with the divine; in both directions, so to speak.

This means that being religious, or knowing Jesus, can have nothing to do with an escape from all of the messes and muddles which are such a large part of being human. Some people may think they know Jesus because they come to church, have warm feelings and act in a very religious way. But if they also live their life by behaving badly to other people, then I’m afraid their behaviour shows them to be sadly mistaken, because one of the jobs of the Holy Spirit is to make Jesus present  to us through other men and women.

It was the departure of Jesus that made possible the coming of the Holy Spirit; and  what the Holy Spirit makes present is done on an entirely human level.  The Holy Spirit, the Spirit that was in Christ, constantly makes Jesus present to each of us and continues Christ’s work through us.

Think about this for a moment; we’re agents of the Holy Spirit. He channels the words and actions of Jesus, through us; but they originate in Jesus.

 So the real work of Christian witness is the task of the Holy Spirit. In a very real sense when a Christian person is moved to Christian action, this is the Holy Spirit at work. Christ walks into hospitals, homes and prisons today, wearing your skin and talking with your voice.  Everything that Christ did for his disciples the Holy Spirit will do for us.

Just as Christ taught, corrected and encouraged his disciples, so the Holy Spirit teaches, strengthens and corrects us.

 We know the Holy Spirit, we know Jesus, as a result of the way in which he changes our lives. The Holy Spirit becomes joined to us in a very real way, so that through us Christ continues his work.

Now, much of what we hear about the Holy Spirit has to do with dramatic things. Signs and wonders. Tongues of fire and ecstatic experiences, and I don’t want to suggest that these aren’t important.

You may or you may not be blessed in this way. This may be one way in which the Holy Spirit shows Himself in your life. But please don’t worry if this isn’t your experience, because it’s more important to be able to recognise the Holy Spirit who brings Christ, by the effects that take place in your life.

Do you remember Jesus said something very similar about the Holy Spirit in a conversation which he had with Nicodemus?  He made the point that we learned things about the wind by looking at the results of a storm. He was also making the point that we should recognise the activity of the Spirit by the results of his work.

And the way in which the Spirit works is by using all of those ordinary things which are available to us. Our powers of reasoning, for example, which include the ability which we’ve been given to listen and to learn.

He’ll  also use  other Christian men and women by giving them gifts of teaching and preaching and advice. Some people are used by the Spirit as channels  through which He’ll draw us closer to Him through music or art or loving concern. But again and again his communications with us are through other human beings.

I’ve laboured this point because it’s very common for us to want to think that religious experiences are all about getting away from the ordinary things of every -day life, and soaring into the heavenly realms to be close to the Lord and away from all the dreary common stuff.

The tragedy is that this is actually a mistake, because it’s quite easy to be religious without necessarily being a Christian.

 Think for a  moment. God’s most amazing revelation of Himself was through the humanity of Jesus. Wouldn’t it therefore be quite likely that He’d use the Spirit, the Spirit of Jesus, within the ordinary bits of His creation. Bits like me and you?

And so, don’t worry if you don’t speak in tongues , or if when people ask you whether you’ve  been born again, you feel that you don’t really understand them.

 The thing to worry about is when any warm feelings  you might have about knowing Jesus become a substitute for his work. Work which will always bring you closer to the common and messy things of everyday life. The sick, the suffering, the poor and those on the margins. Worry when the most important thing about your Christian life is the way in which you worship rather than the way in which you treat other people.

God will keep His promises made through Jesus about the presence and the work of The Holy Spirit. My prayer is that our eyes and our ears may be opened to His presence and work all around us and through us; for that is where he is and what he does.

Ascension Day

All of you will have heard of Albert Einstein. And what I’m about to remind you of comes directly from his famous theory of special relativity.

Imagine two identical twins. One of them sets off on a space journey and returns after two years of space travel at almost the speed of light. He’ll be exactly two years older. But his twin who stayed behind on earth will have aged by thirty years. Weird but true. We think of time as existing in chunks, but that’s only the way we perceive it. A physicist will speak of the space-time continuum. Time slows down if you’re travelling fast. And before you tell me that we can’t travel that fast, let me remind you that the Heidron collider can accelerate sub atomic particles to almost the speed of light. And whilst we’re talking about sub atomic particles, did you know that something as small as an electron can disappear from one place and reappear in another without going through the space which separates the two places? This is a fact, and much of our modern science is built on so called “quantum weirdness”

We live in a really strange universe, and indeed, some scientists have suggested that our universe is just one of an infinite number of parallel universes.

The power behind all of this must be way beyond our ability to understand ; and it’s this power which we call God.

So all this talk about rising from the dead and ascending into heaven isn’t perhaps as weird as it might seem, once you set those gospel reports alongside the weird stuff which science now takes as routine.

But why would God bring Jesus through death and then move him from this world into what is commonly called “heaven”? And where is heaven? Did Jesus take off like a space ship and zoom away until he got there? I don’t think so.

Let me remind you what, as Christians, we believe; it makes a lot of sense especially of the mess which we all seem to be in.

Love is the most powerful force there is. We know this from our own experience. So whatever else God is he’s a God of love. He created us as an expression of his love because love always expands. He created us in His own image in order to reflect His love back to him and onto everything in creation; and we’ve failed. All of us.

But God never gives up. He’s shown us in the resurrection of Jesus that he’s quite capable of creating a new person from the old one. The same stuff but also different. That’s what all those stories about the resurrection of Jesus are trying to tell us. And this new creation will never die.

Where did Jesus go as a result of the Ascension? Well, the universe which we live in is pretty strange and God’s heaven is linked to it. It’s very close, just beyond our perception, but it’s there all right and the Ascension tells us that God’s dimension of reality is open to human beings. Jesus has taken our humanity there. One day heaven and earth will be joined together. There will be no more death, decay , suffering or tears. We shall all rise from death and our hope is that God’s mercy will let us enjoy the beauty of heaven forever. 

Some theologians have taught that in the Ascension Christ moves from a human place to a divine place without ceasing to be human.  Just as he didn’t cease to be divine when he moved the other way to his human place, through the incarnation.  

And so, a novelty has been introduced into heaven.  And that novelty is our human nature. This whole movement places our humanity in the presence of God.  It’s a glorification not only of Christ, but of all human nature.  Christianity teaches that human life draws its dignity not from any particular rights which we think are due to us, but from the fact that because of the Ascension of Jesus , being human was from then on permanently involved in the presence of God. 

It has been said that because of the Ascension we can think of the human race as like a person standing in water up to the neck, safely living because the head is above the surface. This is a good thought; Christ the Head, giving  life to those who remain below.  Christ is now raised above the heavens, but he still experiences on earth, whatever sufferings we, his members feel. 

Christ, while in heaven, is also with us .  And we, while on earth  are also with him.  He is with us in his God head and his power and his love.  He didn’t leave heaven when he came down to us from God; and he didn’t leave us when he ascended to heaven again. 

“Thy Kingdom come; thy will be done, on earth as it is in heaven.”

May God bless us all to that end.

Amen

Biography – Fr. Anthony

Fr Anthony attended Grammar School in Bristol before reading for a BSc in Chemistry at Leeds University. He remained at Leeds for a post-graduate year in order to study chemical engineering and fuel science, and was subsequently appointed as a process engineer within the Gas Industry.

Town gas production stopped after the discovery of natural gas in the North Sea, and after a year or so in customer service work Fr Anthony returned to University in order to qualify as a teacher. He taught chemistry and mathematics at a College of Further Education and did some occasional teaching in a local prison. A full time appointment as an Education Officer in a Young Offender Institution was followed by a secondment to Birmingham University to read for a Master’s degree in the Psychology of Education. Work with boys whose learning difficulties were associated with emotional and behavioural problems followed, and it was whilst he was Deputy Head at a special boarding school that Fr Anthony asked that his vocation to ordained ministry be tested. He gained a Theology degree from Exeter University and was subsequently ordained as an Anglican deacon and then priest. He served his Anglican title at St Gregory’s church in Seaton as assistant curate to Revd Tim Schofield before being appointed as an assistant chaplain at Wonford Hospital.

The last six years of his Anglican Ministry were spent as a Team Vicar in the Rectorial Benefice of Aberavon (Port Talbot), before returning to live in Seaton.

The decision to leave the Church of England was made shortly afterwards, and both Fr Anthony and Susan, his wife, were received into the Church of Rome at the same time. Three years of part time formation at Allen Hall Seminary followed, during which time Msgr Mark O’Toole was Rector. Fr Anthony was ordained deacon by Bishop Mark on 2 March 2014 and priest on 21 June in the same year. He was incardinated into the Personal Ordinariate of Our Lady of Walsingham and shortly afterwards began to work as a part time assistant Catholic Chaplain at HMP Exeter.

In August of 2016 he was asked if he would help as a permanent supply priest at Axminster, Seaton and Lyme Regis following the sad death of Fr Michael Koppel, and in March of this year, with the agreement of his Ordinary, Msgr Keith Newton, Bishop Mark appointed Fr Anthony as parish priest.

Fr Anthony has two grown up sons and two small grandsons who are the delight of his life. He believes there should be a seamless join between liturgical and pastoral work and to that end he puts great emphasis on sharing in the joys and the sorrows of those amongst whom he has been placed.

In-Council 7 Oct 2017

Notes of the Parish in Council meeting held at 10.30 am on Saturday 7th October 2017 at St Mary’s School, Axminster

Present: Father Anthony, Sister Margaret McElroy, Philip Mostyn (Chair/Lyme), Jenny Gale (Secretary/Axminster), Michelle Sullivan (Axminster/Catechesis), Monica Watts-Hunt (Administration), Peter Porteous (Communication), Theresa Dicker (Evangelisation).

Parishioners: David Gale, Jeny Butler, Pippa Brough, Dermot Lyons, Mervyn Aggett, Pat Aggett, Tony Norman, Vicky Norman, Mary Hart, Diana Mostyn, Jo Enright, Matthew Tompkins.

Apologies: Jane Godfrey.

1. Welcome: Philip opened the meeting, welcomed everyone, and explained that this annual opportunity should be focussed mainly on the future.

2. Opening Prayer and Introduction: Father Anthony started the meeting with a prayer

3. The Past Year:

Overview:

Philip briefly reviewed how a year ago we were under temporary parish administration, under the leadership of Canon Paul, whose lasting legacy has been the evangelisation programme that Theresa is now successfully coordinating. In April we had Fr Anthony’s Induction, marking the turn of a tide for us, and the end of our uncertainty. In August Tony Thurgood retired from the Council after many years, and Fr Anthony appointed Theresa.

The School:

Father Anthony explained that John Shannon is the new Head teacher for 2 terms. He is Catholic, with the proven ability to lead and, despite a broken leg, his presence and confidence are showing. Father Anthony is working with him and the non-Catholic teachers to implement the Diocesan RE scheme. There are also plans for school and class Masses to be held in Church. There is a new complement of governors and very positive developments since last year.

Communication:

Peter reported on the magazine and website. There was discussion about the circulation of the magazine. 300 copies are currently produced (100 for each Church) funded by the adverts. More may be needed for distribution to school parents, and they should also be handed out at the end of our masses, rather than left in boxes at the back of churches. Copies are left in surgery waiting rooms and it was suggested that some should be left in tourist information centres. There is no room for more ads, but a larger print run and wider distribution might attract higher advert charges, and a falling unit cost. Praise was given for the excellent website, which is updated weekly, and Father and Claire control the bulletin. Action: Peter to update on the magazine distribution at the next meeting.

Administration:

Monica reported that the parish accounts are displayed in the churches. Financially we are stable but not growing, kept afloat by investments. In summer we benefit from visitors, especially Seaton and Lyme. On the building side there is always maintenance which is particularly expensive at Lyme as it is a listed building. Following a full survey at Lyme, re-pointing and other work is necessary which could cost £300,000 including scaffolding. The Diocese will help and some grants may be available. A digital locking system is about to be put at the car park entrance to Lyme. In the Seaton church it is hoped to return the tabernacle to behind the altar. In Axminster there is still decoration and lighting work to be done in the church.

4. The Future:

Evangelisation:

Theresa described how, after fruitful meetings of sharing their faith and an emphasis on listening to others, the next stage is to explore and share personal opportunities for helping people come closer to God. There will be meetings on the first Tuesday of each month in the Lyme old school room, to which all are welcome, hopefully with a second facilitator to support Theresa (volunteer required).

Axminster Memorial and Organ Concert:

Jenny Gale announced that the memorial plaque to Father Michael is now in place on the organ and the Concert is arranged for Friday 13th October. Posters have been displayed in the churches, school and other places.

Christmas Mass times and places:

Fr Anthony explained that this year is complicated by the Fourth Sunday in Advent falling on Christmas Eve. Masses will be as follows: Sat 23rd Mass at Seaton at 5.30pm. Sun 24th Masses at Axminster at 9am and Lyme at 11am. These are 4th Sunday of Advent masses, and are followed by the Christmas Vigil Mass at Axminster at 7.30pm (preceded by Carols at 7pm) and Christmas Mass during the Night at Lyme at 11pm (no carols before). Christmas Day Masses will be at Seaton at 9am and at Lyme at 11am. Action: Claire please publish this in the bulletin soon as advanced information.

Easter Triduum attendance and music:

There were disappointing attendances at the Holy Thursday and Good Friday services. The Three Parish Easter Vigil will be held at Axminster with a combined choir and Richard playing the organ. Each parish will continue host the other services as usual. Action: Philip to organise the Easter Vigil music and combined choir.
Bidding Prayers. It is felt that there is some general uncertainty from some readers about phrasing, and a wish to pray for local and world issues that the printed book cannot include. Matt Tomkins coordinates Lyme readers and will be clarifying duties to them. His offer to compose topical prayers was accepted, and he agreed to copy emails to Seaton and Axminster Reader coordinators. Action: Monica and Michelle please explain to Seaton and Axminster Reader coordinators respectively, and pass email addresses to Matt Tompkins through Philip.

Use of the Axminster Presbytery:

Fr Anthony suggested that the ground floor should henceforth be available for parish activities, administration and meetings, etc. The first floor rooms should, in the long term be converted to a two bedroom apartment for a future priest. In the short term they would be partitioned off and locked for occasional use only. Other uses for the ground floor were suggested, including for a mother and tots group, and perhaps wider Christian activities. Children’s liturgy and parish meetings could use it from now.

Other Parishioners’ matters:

Interviews will be taking place during the next two weeks for an additional secretary to work with Claire which will enable her concentrate more on finances. Music and Latin during Mass were discussed and it is evident that people have different views. Philip explained some of the current Church direction on music.

5. Conclusion.

Father Anthony closed the meeting with the ‘Our Father’.

The meeting closed at 12.35.

PAG Constitution

It is laid down that every parish must have a Finance Committee to assist the Parish Priest in the administration of the goods of the parish.  The Constitution of the Finance Committee is governed by universal canon law and by the norms laid down by the Bishop.

For greater detail on its responsibilities, please click the link below

parish-administration-group-constitution

Gift Aid planning

The article from our Treasurer in the recent Three Parish Magazine (Issue 16, page 14) and also copied here on the website, will explain why the decision was taken to discontinue the weekly Gift Aid donations. It is through the Gift Aid Small Donation Scheme or ‘GASDS’, that our three parishes can now, within certain parameters, claim back tax from cash put anonymously into the plate at Mass.

You will appreciate that the weekly donation process has been running at a cost to the three parishes for such items as envelope purchase, the time given by volunteers, the keeping of weekly records of each parishioner’s donations, the counting arrangements and storage of used envelopes for seven years for audit purposes.

But there is, a potential difficulty with the GASDS plate arrangement in that there is an annual ceiling figure per parish above which tax cannot be claimed.  However! The arrangement for individuals who make Gift Aid donations has not altered and here there is no ceiling, except for that within each individual’s tax arrangements.

There are continuing advantages therefore to the parish of Gift Aid giving by Bank Standing Order, so if you are a regular donor, may we request you consider transfer to a Bank Standing Order arrangement?  It would be of considerable help to our parishes at a time of falling revenues in a rough world.

If you used to be a weekly Gift Aid donor, to give by monthly Bank Standing Order, there is no need to sign the Gift Aid Declaration form again.  It is just a matter of completing the Banker’s Order and also making a copy of the same form for our Treasurer so that he knows to expect the new donation.

Bank Standing Orders (BSO)

If you would like to transfer to a monthly, quarterly or annual donation, please would you 1) inform your Bank using the BSO form for the Parish you attend and 2) make a copy the same information for our Treasurer (Col Brian Williams). 

For the copy to the Treasurer, please forward the form and address it to ‘The Treasurer’ at: The Office, St Mary’s RC Church, Lyme Road, Axminster, EX13 5BE, in an envelope marked ‘In Confidence’.

For copies of the BSO form, these are available from:  Peter Porteous for Axminster;  Mike Hamerton for Lyme Regis;  Tom or Julie Dunnon at Seaton.

Please Note:  Our three parishes have unique BSO forms as they give the Bank details for each of our parishes.  If you would prefer to set up your BSO on line, then you will need the number from the paper form.  Please also remember to get a copy to the Treasurer!