Services, Sermon and Prayer

Services schedule

22nd November
29th NovemberByton (Advent 1)11.00
6th DecemberPembridge11.00
13th DecemberLyonshall11.00
20th DecemberStaunton11.00

Please note that due to the current circumstances services formats may change please check our website and facebook pages for updates.

November services are as above, the only difference being that all the November services will be streamed.

Topic: Blue Christmas Zoom Meeting.

Anna Branston is inviting you to a scheduled Zoom meeting. Time: Dec 27, 2020 11:00 London
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Morning Prayer

Monday: Lyonshall church 9.00
Tuesday: Zoom Silent prayer 9.00 (let Anna know if you’re interested)
Wednesday: At the Rectory – please send any prayer request to Anna
Thursday: Shobdon church 9.00
Friday: Pembridge School 9.00

If you would like to join in on the Zoom services please let Anna know (this is for security purposes) and you will be sent an invitation. It is very easy to join a Zoom session.

Service 29th November 2020

Dear friends,

Welcome to the 1st Sunday in Advent. This is a rather long piece because I have included Bishop Richard’s article in the Church Times about the future of rural churches. It seems very apt for Advent as we are bidden to watch and wait for the signs of the coming of the Kingdom.

We are expecting some clarification from the church on the possibility of outdoor carol services – as soon as I have studied the guidance I will be talking to the Churchwardens about what service we will be able to offer safely. Watch this space!

With my prayers and I hope you have a blessed Sunday



1 Corinthians 1.3–9

3 Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ. 

4 I give thanks to my God always for you because of the grace of God that has been given you in Christ Jesus, 5for in every way you have been enriched in him, in speech and knowledge of every kind— 6just as the testimony of Christ has been strengthened among you— 7so that you are not lacking in any spiritual gift as you wait for the revealing of our Lord Jesus Christ. 8He will also strengthen you to the end, so that you may be blameless on the day of our Lord Jesus Christ. 9God is faithful; by him you were called into the fellowship of his Son, Jesus Christ our Lord.

Mark 13.24–37

24 ‘But in those days, after that suffering,
the sun will be darkened,
   and the moon will not give its light, 
25 and the stars will be falling from heaven,
   and the powers in the heavens will be shaken. 
26Then they will see “the Son of Man coming in clouds” with great power and glory.27Then he will send out the angels, and gather his elect from the four winds, from the ends of the earth to the ends of heaven.

28 ‘From the fig tree learn its lesson: as soon as its branch becomes tender and puts forth its leaves, you know that summer is near. 29So also, when you see these things taking place, you know that he is near, at the very gates. 30Truly I tell you, this generation will not pass away until all these things have taken place. 31Heaven and earth will pass away, but my words will not pass away.

32 ‘But about that day or hour no one knows, neither the angels in heaven, nor the Son, but only the Father. 33Beware, keep alert; for you do not know when the time will come. 34It is like a man going on a journey, when he leaves home and puts his slaves in charge, each with his work, and commands the doorkeeper to be on the watch. 35Therefore, keep awake—for you do not know when the master of the house will come, in the evening, or at midnight, or at cockcrow, or at dawn, 36or else he may find you asleep when he comes suddenly. 37And what I say to you I say to all: Keep awake.’ 


Almighty God,
give us grace to cast away the works of darkness
and to put on the armour of light,
now in the time of this mortal life,
in which your Son Jesus Christ came to us in great humility;
that on the last day,
when he shall come again in his glorious majesty
   to judge the living and the dead,
we may rise to the life immortal;
through him who is alive and reigns with you,
in the unity of the Holy Spirit,
one God, now and for ever.

Post Communion

O Lord our God,
make us watchful and keep us faithful
as we await the coming of your Son our Lord;
that, when he shall appear,
he may not find us sleeping in sin
but active in his service
and joyful in his praise;
through Jesus Christ our Lord.


My service book introduces the season of advent saying,

Advent is a season of expectation and preparation, as the church prepares to celebrate the coming Adventist of Christ in his incarnation, and also looks ahead to his final advent as judge at the end of time. The readings and liturgies not only direct us towards Christ’s birth, they also challenge the modern reluctance to confront the theme of divine judgement.

The imagery of Advent revolves around the contrast between light and dark; later in Advent we hear about John the Baptist who is described as, ’a witness to testify to the light’. This is the light that we finally meet on Christmas night. The light that drew shepherds and magi to their own act of witness and worship. The final reading of 9 lessons and carols says of John the Baptist 

He was not that Light, but was sent to bear witness of that Light. That[b] was the true Light which gives light to every man coming into the world.10 He was in the world, and the world was made through Him, and the world did not know Him. 11 He came to His [c]own, and His [d]own did not receive Him.

That is why we watch and wait at Advent – so that when he comes we will know him. Watching, waiting, and witnessing sums up Advent perfectly. We watch and wait so that we can testify to the light. So that we are prepared to be in the presence of the light.

This Christmas, the Covid Christmas, full of darkness the gloom – Advent seems to be all the more intense and we have all the more reason to prepare ourselves spiritually for the coming of the light. It is good to remember that we need the darkness to see the light. Think of all those candlelit services where a tiny light flickering in the darkness grows; the hushed anticipation, the excitement as the light grows and crowds out the darkness. 

The 4 Sundays of Advent are also focused on the Four Last Things; Death, Judgement, Hell and Heaven. Covid has meant that we are very keenly aware of death in our midst. We are having to pay at least some attention to death however much we may shy from it in our current culture. To ask ourselves the big questions, what happens when we die, what judgement awaits us? The funeral liturgy speaks with absolute clarity of the hope in the resurrection. Advent is the proper time to reflect on these questions To prepare ourselves for the coming of the one who is judge and saviour. Death is not the end and we contemplate these serious issues in the knowledge of our place in heaven prepared for us when we turn to Christ. To the light and away from the darkness.

Here is an image that’s going around on social media (of a very simple nativity scene saying that the first Christmas was simple and it’s OK if this Christmas is simple too.)

If we take advent traditionally, as a penitential season, then we would be fasting and praying throughout the period, pursuing simplicity in anticipation of the feast to come being all the more delicious thanks to our earlier restraint. It was noticeable that, having been denied the joy of singing together the thought of carol services has given us such encouragement and excitement.

I think we should treasure what we have learnt of self-denial and simplifying our lives during this period. What has this taught us that we can carry on in our own personal spiritual lives? How we can change how we do ‘church’ in a way that looks to the future in hope and determination to tell the world what it is we are waiting for. The coming of Jesus our saviour. 

I have attached Bishop Richard’s letter in the Church Times in response to an article by Professors Andrew Village and Leslie Francis about research done into the decline of the rural church. The article is somewhat despondent about the future of the rural church. Bishop Richard’s letter on the other hand covers all the things that we are seeking to do to meet the challenge of the decline in the rural church and is a letter full of vision for the future and hope and I commend it to you. Let us look forward to the new year and what we can do in it to bring the knowledge of Jesus to our communities. 


For rural churches to thrive, bold thinking is needed

26 NOVEMBER 2020

Hanging tenaciously to the familiar may hasten their demise, says Richard Jackson

Hereford diocese has one church building for every 820 people. We are acutely aware of declining numbers and the burdens that these place on clergy and lay leaders. It is not uncommon for clergy to be looking after fewer than 2000 people, but with seven or eight church buildings and a 30-minute drive between them.

The Covid-19 crisis has, however, revealed a huge reservoir of creative energy and passion in the rural Church. Rural churches are a very diverse group. The boundary between church and the wider community is very fuzzy. They are integral to their community’s identity. The buildings generate great passion, not just in those who worship there regularly.

The solutions to these challenges will be as diverse as the communities themselves. Solutions are beginning to emerge as a whole diocese works together in partnership. The destination will be a very different Church, but change is more likely to be fruitful if it is evolutionary and consultative rather than imposed from the top down.

SEVERAL principles seem clear. First, people’s energy for engagement dissipates the further you go from the parish centre. People are committed to their parish, but less so to their benefice — less, still, to the deanery — and the “diocese” is often regarded as a disembodied tax-collecting authority based in Church House.

Second, the local church will remain the place in which mission and pastoral care is generated and sustained.

Third, diverse leadership is the key to growth and health.

We need a new partnership to develop in church governance at every level. It seems crazy that churches within a few miles of each other are all struggling to find safeguarding officers, churchwardens, and treasurers.

Benefice councils are a significant help with this. Greater involvement at a deanery level can be encouraged by reducing governance functions to a bare minimum, and opening up synod meetings to a wider constituency, discussing and acting on matters of missional interest.

Reimagining deanery chapters as a more monastic, mutually supportive community combats something of the loneliness of parochial ministry. In some cases, a radical reimagining of deanery function allows a degree of specialisation: clergy can play to their strengths across a wider area, which is especially important now that schools are our missional focus with children.

THE recognition of the local church as the centre of a diocese means that we will seek to focus our resources there: running very tight ships at the diocesan office; reducing non-parochial clerical posts if possible; sharing advisory posts with parish responsibility; and always asking the question of central activities “How does this help frontline ministry?” Diocesan advisory committees and chancellors must have a clear bias to missional engagement, and less to aesthetics.

Ultimately, some buildings will need to close. We recognise the pain of that. Government should play a part in heritage preservation in areas where the buildings are no longer needed. But closed buildings that have not been repurposed are still the responsibility of the diocesan board of finance. Few can afford that.

The best way to preserve a building is to have a vibrant worshipping community. Evidence shows that focal ministry is one of the keys to this. We need to facilitate greater numbers of clergy — stipendiary, part-time, self-supporting — and licensed lay ministers. Bishops will need to be entrepreneurial, experimental, and permission-giving, often linking to ecumenical partners, with whom close working will be essential.

The desire to preserve what we have is commendable, but, paradoxically, hanging tenaciously to the familiar can accelerate its demise. These inevitable changes must be about helping more people to discover Jesus, not institutional survival. Falling numbers are the fundamental problem. But bear in mind, just before the Wesleyan revival of the 18th century, there were only 20 communicants in St Paul’s Cathedral on Christmas Day. Prayer does make a difference.

The Rt Revd Richard Jackson is the Bishop of Hereford.

Worship and prayer resources to use during the Covid-19 pandemic.

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If there is any way I can help even if you just want a chat call me on 07777692458. If the line is busy do leave a message and I will get back to you as soon as I can. You can also email me on Anna
Rev’d Anna Branston Rector of the Arrowvale Group of Parishes

Worship at home

The Archbishops of the Church of England have taken the step of suspending public worship until further notice owing to the Coronavirus pandemic.

As they wrote in their letter to the church on March 17th:

“We urge you sisters and brothers to become a different sort of church in these coming months: hopeful and rooted in the offering of prayer and praise and overflowing in service to the world.”

We want to ensure that prayer and worship continues, even though churches have had to suspend their services and activities.

Many of us already pray and study our Bibles at home, but it is hard to keep doing this without meeting with other Christians – especially without Sunday worship.

There are many ways in which we can continue to share in worship together, even if we are not in the same room.

This section contains a range of resources to help you pray and worship at home:

Places to find worship and prayer while at home
Prayers written especially for this outbreak
Prayers for children
Helpful Bible passages

You might find it helpful to set aside specific times of the day and week to pray and worship. Find a quiet place in your home and enable other members of your household to join you. You might want to light a candle to create a prayerful atmosphere and to use as a focus for your prayers.

You could also try praying with others while still physically distant – for example, over the phone, text messaging, or using video calls.

Updates are posted regularly by

Places to find prayer and worship while at home

There is a daily service on Radio 4 every morning at 9.45am.

Premier Christian Radio broadcasts Bible studies at intervals throughout the day.

At noon and at 2.30pm they have “worship hours” which include worship songs, prayer and Bible readings.

BBC One broadcasts Songs of Praise every Sunday at 1.15pm.

If you have access to the internet, there are many churches that are broadcasting their services, either on their website or using Facebook Live.

Some clergy are also sharing daily prayer in this way too.

Online, there are countless resources that provide daily prayer & Bible readings.

Church of England Daily Prayer:

Pray As You Go

24-7 Prayer

Prayers about the outbreak

Keep us, good Lord, under the shadow of your mercy in this time of uncertainty and distress. Sustain and support the anxious and fearful, and lift up all who are brought low; that we may rejoice in your comfort knowing that nothing can separate us from your love in Christ Jesus our Lord.

Lord Jesus Christ, you taught us to love our neighbour, and to care for those in need as if we were caring for you. In this time of anxiety, give us strength to comfort the fearful, to tend the sick, and to assure the isolated of our love, and your love,

for your name’s sake. Amen.

God of compassion, be close to those who are ill, afraid or in isolation.
In their loneliness, be their consolation; in their anxiety, be their hope;
in their darkness, be their light; through him who suffered alone on the cross,
but reigns with you in glory, Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.

For those who are ill

Merciful God, we entrust to your tender care those who are ill or in pain,
knowing that whenever danger threatens your everlasting arms are there to hold them safe. Comfort and heal them, and restore them to health and strength; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.

For hospital staff and medical researchers

Gracious God, give skill, sympathy and resilience to all who are caring for the sick,
and your wisdom to those searching for a cure.

Strengthen them with your Spirit, that through their work many will be restored to health; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.

From one who is ill or isolated

O God, help me to trust you, help me to know that you are with me,
help me to believe that nothing can separate me from your love revealed in Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.

For the Christian community

We are not people of fear: we are people of courage.
We are not people who protect our own safety:

we are people who protect our neighbours’ safety.

We are not people of greed: we are people of generosity.
We are your people God, giving and loving, wherever we are, whatever it costs
For as long as it takes wherever you call us.

Barbara Glasson, President of the Methodist Conference

Prayers of Intercession

Let us pray to God, who alone makes us dwell in safety:

For all who are affected by coronavirus, through illness or isolation or anxiety,
that they may find relief and recovery:
Lord, hear us, Lord, graciously hear us.

For those who are guiding our nation at this time, and shaping national policies,
that they may make wise decisions:
Lord, hear us, Lord, graciously hear us.

For doctors, nurses and medical researchers, that through their skill and insights
many will be restored to health:
Lord, hear us, Lord, graciously hear us.

For the vulnerable and the fearful, for the gravely ill and the dying,
that they may know your comfort and peace:
Lord, hear us, Lord, graciously hear us.

We commend ourselves, and all for whom we pray, 

to the mercy and protection of God.
Merciful Father, accept these prayers…


Let us pray to the Lord, who is our refuge and stronghold. 

For the health and well-being of our nation,

that all who are fearful and anxious
may be at peace and free from worry:
Lord, hear us, Lord, graciously hear us.

For the isolated and housebound, that we may be alert to their needs,
and care for them in their vulnerability:
Lord, hear us, Lord, graciously hear us.

For our homes and families, our schools and young people,
and all in any kind of need or distress:
Lord, hear us, Lord, graciously hear us.

For a blessing on our local community,
that our neighbourhoods may be places of trust and friendship,
where all are known and cared for:
Lord, hear us, Lord, graciously hear us.

We commend ourselves, and all for whom we pray, 

to the mercy and protection of God.
Merciful Father, accept these prayers…

Prayers with Children

A prayer for when a friend is ill

Dear God, (name of friend) is ill.

They are not allowed to go to school or come over to play.

I’m sad because I miss them.
They must be feeling miserable and lonely as well. Please be close to them.
Please be with the people who are looking after them.
Please help them to get better and to know that you love them.

A prayer for the world

God of love and hope, you made the world and care for all creation,
but the world feels strange right now.
The news is full of stories about Coronavirus.

Some people are worried that they might get ill.
Others are anxious for their family and friends.

Be with them and help them to find peace.
We pray for the doctors and nurses and scientists, and all who are working to discover the right medicines to help those who are ill.
Thank you that even in these anxious times, you are with us.
Help us to put our trust in you and keep us safe.

A prayer at bedtime

Before the ending of the day, Creator of the world, we pray
That you, with steadfast love, would keep Your watch around us while we sleep.

Tonight we pray especially for (names family or friends who are affected by Coronavirus) and the people of (country or place which is affected by Coronavirus).
Please give skill and wisdom to all who are caring for them.

A prayer remembering God is with us

Lord God, you are always with me. You are with me in the day and in the night.
You are with me when I’m happy and when I’m sad.
You are with me when I’m healthy and when I am ill.
You are with me when I am peaceful and when I am worried.
Today I am feeling (name how you are feeling) 

because (reasons you are feeling this way).
Help me to remember that you love me and are with me in everything today.

Bible Passages

(Extracts are given where readings are longer.)

Psalm 23

“Even though I walk through the darkest valley, 

I will fear no evil, for you are with me; your rod and your staff, they comfort me.”

(Verse 4)

Psalm 91

“Whoever dwells in the shelter of the Most High will rest in the shadow of the Almighty. I will say of the Lord, ‘He is my refuge and my fortress, my God, in whom I trust.’”

(Verses 1-2)

Psalm 139

“Search me, God, and know my heart; test me and know my anxious thoughts.”

(Verse 23)

Isaiah 41:10

“So do not fear, for I am with you; do not be dismayed, for I am your God.
I will strengthen you and help you; I will uphold you with my righteous right hand.”

John 14

“Peace I leave with you; my peace I give you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled and do not be afraid.”

(Verse 27)

Luke 12:22-34

“Who of you by worrying can add a single hour to your life? 

Since you cannot do this very little thing, why do you worry about the rest?”

(Verses 25-26)

Philippians 4:4-9

“Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.”

(Verses 6-7)

May the peace of God give you renewed hope and wisdom,

May you find the strength you already carry within you to be enough,

May the grace of God be sufficient,

May you find a deep breath when the air around you is thin,

May you grow in compassion in these days,

May you love well, not in spite of these anxious times,

But because of them.

  • Sarah Bessey