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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.


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:


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.


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.


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:


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


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!

PPC Constitution

PASTORAL COUNCIL CONSTITUTION     The Axminster, Lyme Regis and Seaton Parishes Pastoral Council has a new written constitution, designed to enable parishioners to support our clergy more and to contribute to the running of the parishes.  The document is on display at the back of each church, and can be found at the link below.  It may take a few moments to open.



Bishop Christopher – Autumn 2016

Img_0008I have been invited to pen a few words for this section of your Three Parish Newsletter, a section that hitherto has been reserved for Father Michael.

My first thoughts are about the gap that has been created by Fr. Michael’s death which has left all three parish communities without a proper pastor. I am sure a new one will be sent in good time and we should direct our personal and communal prayer for that intention. In the meanwhile, under the administrative gaze of Canon Paul Cummins, we ‘oldies’ will offer what ministry we can.  For me it is a privilege to be available to you for such a ministry.

The year of mercy, inaugurated by Pope Francis on Dec 8th 2015 is now over half way through. The question that hovers in my mind is what has its impact been so far. To give an adequate answer would involve speaking to a lot of people. As that would be difficult, it is more manageable to talk about hopes and aspirations that it has aroused to be realised in the future. This jubilee is due to come to an end in November with the Feast of Christ the King, but if it has had any impact at all we should be able to see its results well into the years ahead.

So what do we hope the lasting fruits of this year of mercy to be? I will mention three but I am sure there will be many more.

PP Numbers1The first issue that I would like to mention concerns the way we think about God. Have our dominant images / ideas of God been in any way changed or developed? Pope Francis and others have regularly encouraged us to use ‘mercy’ as the most important and all-embracing name of God. We are encouraged to say ‘God is mercy’. There is however a problem. If God is total mystery, it is difficult to claim that we can accurately capture the reality of God with any of our images and ideas. God is totally beyond us and any ideas or images we have are necessarily provisional and certainly inadequate.

Calling God mercy however is backed up by the revelation of God in the face of the One who is mercy in flesh, God made man, Jesus.   In the document setting up the Jubilee year, Pope Francis starts with the phrase Miserericordiae Vultus, the face of mercy, which of course is Jesus. We know God as mercy particularly from Jesus. The issue for us is whether we have allowed the revelation of God as mercy in Jesus to form the way we think about God. This sort of fundamental truth is worth engaging with now and into the years ahead. The Pope’s most recent document about Family, Amoris Laetitia, following two Synods, is coloured by mercy-thinking. We need to allow this sort of thinking to exercise the way we think of God and let it deal with the wrong sort of fear which can so often bedevil our relationship with God our Father.

PP Numbers2

If mercy, what about sin! This is an unpopular issue because it runs against a dominant image of ourselves as ‘how great we are’. Without in any way diminishing the manifold achievements of much human endeavour, we do have to acknowledge a flaw in us, individually and collectively, that poises a question mark against ‘our greatness’. We call this reality sin and it needs remedy from outside ourselves. This remedy lies deep in the heart of God and is made available in the person of Jesus Christ and the Spirit that comes to us from the Father and the Son. A jubilee year does not focus on human sinfulness; its core is the loving God which says to us ‘mercy’.  It is in the light of God’s merciful love that the true nature and extent of our sinfulness comes to light and we are enabled to deal with it. Hence conversion, new beginnings, prayer, penance (including the Sacrament of Reconciliation), pilgrimage etc. are necessarily an important part of the celebration of this jubilee year. It is only in the light of the mercy of God that we can own and deal with our sinfulness.

PP Numbers3

Thirdly and intimately connected with the two previous points is the place and nature of prayer in our lives. The jubilee year is an invitation to allow our praying to become more contemplative. This means that our prayer becomes quieter, more fully focused on God and to be given an assured space in the daily reality of our lives. All this is easier said than done! Our liturgical prayer is by nature communal and our personal prayer, which flows from and into our liturgy, needs to be ‘a remedy’ to the frenetic, hyperactive lives most of us are involved in. We are made for interior silence as well as good works and one without the other can be damaging to our humanity

A final word of thanks to Fr. Michael for his ministry among us. I was privileged to be his bishop when he started seminary formation, when he was ordained in 1993 and when he came to our three lovely communities of Axminster, Lyme Regis and Seaton. May he rest in peace.

Gift Aid – GASDS

The Gift Aid Small Donations Scheme (GASDS)

As part of the Plymouth Diocesan Trust our three parishes are eligible to apply for a Gift Aid top-up on Loose Plate collections without requiring from individual donors  a declaration that they are paying sufficient income tax to cover the amounts they donate each year. This means that for many of us who are not signed into the long-standing Gift Aid scheme, the money placed onto the offertory plate can now  attract a 25% top-up from the Government through HMRC.

The Scheme, which is a Government initiative and can be withdrawn at some future date, applies to donations made at the weekly Saturday/Sunday  Mass at each church, and to qualify:-

  • Individual donations must be in cash not exceeding £20 (so no cheques or £50 notes, please!)
  • Attendance at each Mass must be at least 10 and a written record of the approximate number must be kept and available to view on request.
  • The amounts of the donations included in an annual claim for the top-up must be supported  by  details of the notes and coins received each week which are in fact recorded as standard procedure  by our Collection Counting  teams.

GASDS is already operating in our parishes and claims for the top-up on Loose  Plate collections in the2015/16 tax year will be made shortly for each parish, subject to meeting the qualifying conditions. It complements but is entirely separate from the Gift- Aid Scheme  which has been operating to the benefit of our parishes for many years. Those of us who are paying sufficient income tax to remain in  or wish to start regular donating through the  Gift-Aid Scheme, are encouraged make their donations by Standing Order in particular (rather than through envelopes), and if you would like to change the way you donate in this way please contact either Peter Porteous (01460 221325) or myself (01460 67909) for the necessary form to be completed.

Brian Williams Treasurer