Take Courage, I Am With You

The topic for assemblies at Southam St James CofE Academy this half term is ‘Courage’ and after a recent assembly I spent some more time thinking about what it means to have courage and also what it means to encourage someone else. It is always good to be surrounded by people who will encourage you through life, whether they’re there for a reason, a season or a lifetime. Throughout the Bible, God promises to be with people and encourages them to have courage and to trust Him. In the Book of Exodus (chapters 3 & 4) in the Bible, I was reading about how God encouraged Moses. The story went something like this (forgive the paraphrasing!).

  1. Moses is doing his daily task of being a shepherd when suddenly God speaks to him and Moses hides his face from God.
  2. God tells Moses that He has heard the cry of the people in their suffering and gives Moses the task to lead His people out of slavery in Egypt and Moses responds with ‘Who am I that I should go?’
  3. God promises to be with Moses. Moses responds with ‘What if they question me as to who sent me?’
  4. God tells Moses what he should say and what will happen. Moses responds with, ‘What if they don’t believe me or listen to me?’
  5. God reveals His power. Moses comes up with another excuse and questions his own eloquence as he is ‘slow of speech and tongue’.
  6. God replies that He is Creator God and He will help Moses and give him the words to say. Moses responds by asking God to send someone else!
  7. God provides someone else to go with Moses. In fact, Moses’ brother, Aaron, who speaks eloquently is already in his way to meet Moses!   

I wonder when you read the above, whether you recognise yourself and/or your own responses to opportunities that life offers you? I know that I certainly recognise myself at various different stages of my life in Moses’ story. I wonder if when you have a new opportunity or a hope or dream, you immediately shy away from it, then doubt yourself – ‘Who am I to do this?’ We can always think of someone else that is better suited to the job, or they can do things much better than us.

Does the dream stop there? Or do you move on to other fears and doubts, ‘What if I don’t know enough?’ or ‘What if no-one listens?’ And then move on to all the reasons that you wouldn’t succeed because of your own perceived weaknesses.  As I said at the beginning, we all need encouragers who give us the courage to take steps along own journey – and even if it’s a baby step, it’s still a step! Just like Moses, we all come up with so many excuses in life to not take the first step and we put lots of obstacles in our way. But if we journey with God like Moses did and ask Him for help, He’ll always provide, He’ll encourage us and He’ll remove the obstacles so that we can follow the way that He has planned for us.

That might sound very simplistic and I know that life can be much more complicated, however I also know that God’s provision and encouragement have been my own experience. It doesn’t mean that life has always been easy, but I know that I’ve got through the highs and lows of life because of the courage and encouragement that God has given in lots of different ways and through lots of different people – despite my self doubt and questions! So take heart, take courage and trust the One who has overcome it all.


Rev Vikki

The Light of the World

So another year has passed and I don’t know whether it’s an age thing, but this year seems to have gone by in the blink of an eye! For many, the year has had its high points and low points and so I wonder how you’re feeling about the turn of a new year. January can be a funny month – often starting off with good intentions and positivity, but then sometimes becoming a long month with the Christmas trimmings packed away and Spring not yet on the horizon.

But all is not as dark and bare as it may seem on the surface. We’ve just celebrated the birth of the Light of the world. We’ve been reminded of the words from one of the books in the Bible that ‘the light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it.’ (John chapter 1 verse 5). That Light is Jesus.

At St James church, we continue to celebrate and remember that the light of Jesus transforms lives – however dark or tough life can become. It’s certainly not easy through the tough times of today, especially when we switch on the news and see what’s happening around the world and we may question, ‘Where is God is this?’ That’s too big a question for me to answer here, but, in short, He is in the midst of the suffering, in the midst of the darkness.

In Moravia in 1747, Bishop Johannes de Watteville looked for a simple way to explain the happiness that had come to people through Jesus, the light in the darkness, and created a symbol, the Christingle, to do this. Each element of a Christingle has a special meaning and helps to tell the Christian story:

The orange represents the world;
The red ribbon symbolises the love and blood of Christ;
The sweets and dried fruit represent all of God’s creations; and
The lit candle represents Jesus’ light in the world, bringing hope to people living in darkness.

On Sunday January 28th at 9:45am, we are having a Christingle Breakfast at St James church which you are very welcome to. Sadly, we don’t have the facilities to make a bacon and eggs, but we do put on a good spread of continental style breakfast goodies! We’ll make the Christingles together and then have a short time of worship where we light the Christingles and ask for the Light of God to shine in the darkness. There’s no charge for Breakfast, but donations are welcome to cover costs.

Thank you to those who have also collected money for The Children’s Society throughout the year – if anyone else would like to find out more about having their own collection tin please get in touch with the church office. On the 28 th , we will take a collection for The Children’s Society who have dedicated more than 100 years to protecting the hopes of children threatened by abuse, exploitation and neglect. From humble beginnings, The Children’s Society have helped transform the lives of young people all across the country and every amount that is given helps children and young people build a brighter future. Our giving brings light into their darkness.

Rev Vikki

Autumn Days

As summer draws to a close, there are many signs that nature is already gearing up for the next season. And what a spectacular season it is. Autumn – nature’s last hurrah before the colder winter months. Each year at Harvest Festivals, schools sing a song called Autumn Days which describes lots of the beauty of the life in Autumn and to be thankful.

At St James church, we have a lot to be thankful for. A year ago, we started Footprints Stay & Play Group which has a focus on sensory play and providing a lovely space for all children, especially those with special educational needs and disabilities to explore play together. The group has flourished and good supportive relationships have grown – I think the chats over tea and cake help here! So a big thank you to all who come and all those who help make it possible. Please see dates list for when we meet.

The leaders of Footprints understand that not everyone likes to celebrate Halloween and so are having a Light Party on October 31st from 1 until 3 at St James Church. Lots of family fun, games, play and food to share together. Dress up in your brightest coloured clothes and enjoy celebrating Light. No charge, but donations are always welcome.

In September, some lovely volunteers opened up St James church for the Heritage Open Coffee Morning. Thank you to Southam Heritage for leading tours around the town and for everyone who came to the coffee morning and donated cakes. To date, we raised just over £210 which will go towards the buildings fund for the much needed repairs.

On Saturday October 14th , we’re excited to have a concert by ‘Vinyl Times’ to raise further funds. The band will perform music from the Eagles, Bruce Springsteen, Travelling Wilbury’s, Tom Petty and Leonard Cohen to name a few. Doors open 7pm with 7:30pm start. Licensed bar. Tickets £10 each from the Church office southamstjames@gmail.com or 01926 812413, or Jane Jones on a Sunday morning.

Just a quick update about the church building – we are so thankful to those who are supporting the work with their time, expertise and energy as well as those giving financially. The amount of work needed is significant, but we know how much the church means to the community and we are so thankful for your support. I hope that you will have noticed works already happening with work on the churchyard and also the south and north aisle doors being repaired and treated ready for the colder months ahead. It’s planned that in the week of October 16th a steeplejack company will be inspecting the tower and spire, removing loose debris, investigating and removing the shrubbery, and providing a full report for us. This sort of work doesn’t often happen, so do look out for the steeplejack but please do also keep your distance as they clear the debris etc. We’re hoping that after the works are completed that we may be able to restart the clock for which I know that we will all be thankful for! The clock hands are likely to require some work in the future, but we’ll keep you updated as we’re able to.

A few more dates for your diary…
October 26th – Poppy Appeal Launch – keep an eye out for more info from Galanos House
October 29th – Breakfast Church at St James 9:45am all welcome
November 12th – Remembrance Sunday Parade & service at St James
November 24th – 26th – Christmas Tree Festival – please get in touch with church office if you’d like to be involved this year.
December 2nd – Christmas Church Fayre

Stay thankful,
Rev Vikki

Vinyl Times Concert

Performing the music of The Eagles, Brice Springsteen, Travelling Wilburys, Tom Petty, Leonard Cohen, Roy Orbison and more! Licensed bar and all proceeds to the Buildings Fund. Tickets £10 each available from the church office southamstjames@gmail.com 01926 812413 or Rev Vikki.  

Priorities in a Busy World – Luke 10:38-42: Jesus Visits Martha and Mary

As Jesus and the disciples continued on their way to Jerusalem, they came to a certain village where a woman named Martha welcomed him into her home. Her sister, Mary, sat at the Lord’s feet, listening to what he taught. But Martha was distracted by the big dinner she was preparing. She came to Jesus and said, “Lord, doesn’t it seem unfair to you that my sister just sits here while I do all the work? Tell her to come and help me.”

But the Lord said to her, “My dear Martha, you are worried and upset over all these details! There is only one thing worth being concerned about. Mary has discovered it, and it will not be taken away from her.”

This may be a really familiar Bible passage to you or you may be reading it for the first time. I wonder, as you take a moment to think about this reading, what things distract you or prevent you from taking time to sit with Jesus or just even take time out?

Martha is very busy and distracted whilst Mary appears to be sitting idle. Martha is doing all the work, while Mary has, in the culture of the day, invaded the space culturally and traditionally left for men. Rather than assuming the role expected of women in her culture, Mary takes a place at the feet of Jesus and listens to his words. She assumes the posture of a student learning at the feet of a rabbi, a role traditionally reserved for men.

The account takes a sharp turn when Martha, distracted by her many tasks, comes to Jesus and asks, “Lord, do you not care that my sister has left me to do all the work by myself? Tell her then to help me”. Many who read or hear this story may cheer for Mary in her inversion of traditional roles. Many may also empathise with Martha’s resentment of her sister for leaving her to do all the work. Jesus’ response to Martha seems less than empathetic, chiding her for her distraction and worry, and praising Mary: “Martha, Martha, you are worried and distracted by many things; there is need of only one thing. Mary has chosen the better part, which will not be taken away from her.”

The problem with Martha is not that she is busy serving and providing hospitality, but rather that she is worried and distracted and her heart is not in the right place. Martha’s distraction and worry leave no room for the most important aspect of hospitality – gracious attention to the guest. In fact, she breaks all the rules of hospitality by trying to embarrass her sister in front of her guest, by asking her guest to intervene in a family dispute and then accusing the guest of not caring about her!

Martha’s worry and distraction prevent her from being truly present with Jesus, and it causes her to drive a wedge between her sister and herself, and between Jesus and herself. Jesus’ words to Martha may be seen as an invitation rather than a rebuke. “Martha, Martha, you are worried and distracted by many things; there is need of only one thing.” The one thing needed is for Martha to receive the gracious presence of Jesus, to listen to his words, to know that she is valued not for what she does or how well she does it, but for who she is as a child of God.

In a culture of hectic schedules and the relentless pursuit of productivity, we are tempted to measure our worth by how busy we are, by how much we accomplish, or by how well we meet the expectations of others. It’s true that much of our busyness and distraction stems from the noblest of intentions. Indeed, where would the church be without its ‘Martha’s’ – faithful folk who perform the tasks of hospitality and service so vital to making the church a welcoming and well-functioning community?

And yet if all our activities leave us with no time to be still and hear God’s word, we are likely to end up anxious and troubled. Jesus doesn’t condemn Martha for trying to be a good hostess, rather he tells her that the problem is she has become anxious and troubled. She had lost her perspective of why she was serving in the first place. Jesus said that even though what Martha was doing was important, there was only one thing that was needful. What was that one thing? It was sitting at Jesus feet learning from his teaching.

Both listening and doing, receiving God’s Word and serving others, are vital to the Christian life, just as inhaling and exhaling are to breathing. Taking time out from busy schedules is such a blessing and much needed. So my prayer for you all this month is that the lighter summer days give you space away from worries and distractions, and that you have time to step away from busy schedules so that you can just sit and breathe and come to know that you are valued just as you are – a child of God.

If Walls Could Talk…

Over my time here as Priest here in Southam, I’ve chatted with a lot of people who have celebrated weddings, baptisms or other happy times at St James and I’ve been alongside others who turn to the church in times of grief or sadness. For many families, the church has been part of their story over generations. It is a privilege to hear some of the stories, but I know that these memories are only the tip of the iceberg. If walls could talk… For hundreds of years, generation after generation have cared for each other and have cared for this building steeped in history.

As with many other churches across the country, our ancient Grade I listed building is in need of repair. Many have asked about the church clock and why it hasn’t been fixed – the clock is ok but we had to make the decision to stop the clock to prevent damage to its mechanism from the shrubs growing from the spire. As you can imagine to remove the shrubs is no mean feat and as with most things nowadays has considerable cost and paperwork implications! It is on the schedule of works that need to be completed, but our first priority is the repair of the roof on the south side which has multiple leaks.  There are other significant repair works needed too, and so we are hoping for volunteers from the community who love and value this beautiful building of our town to help in a variety of ways alongside our current faithful volunteers. The good news is everyone can be involved in some way! We are looking for help with putting on events that are fun and will bring the community together but also will raise vital funds – everyone can do something whether it’s baking or donating a cake for refreshments or coming and eating one! Your talents may be to help with the admin side of things eg grant applications, looking for quotes etc or you may be able to help practically with some of the smaller jobs that are needed to repair/upkeep the church building. Or you may wish to give a one off donation or become a regular giver to St James. If you’re able to help in any way then please contact me through the church office. Many people think that churches receive funding from the Church of England or its Diocese, but sadly this is not the case. Each church is usually reliant on just the funds raised by its congregation and community. So if you are able, or know someone, who could help with any of the above then we would be very happy to hear from you so that in generations to come the walls will have some more stories… if only they could talk!


Divertimento Concert

As most of you are aware, the church building needs much repair work and to raise funds we will be hosting a variety of concerts and events over the coming months. It’s a big encouragement that we’ve been asked by talented local folk whether they can perform at St James to raise funds for the church. On Saturday 15 July at 3pm we will be hosting an afternoon concert performed by Divertimento. It’s called ‘Best of British’ and the music will span from Henry VIII to the Beatles and beyond! Tickets are £10 for adults or £5 for under 16s (Family tickets £25) and are available from the church office during office hours (Mon, Wed, Thurs 9am-1pm) 01926 812413 southamstjames@gmail.com or from Vikki 07983 402614 vicarpad@gmail.com. You can also order tickets from Jane Jones on Sunday mornings at church, or book through Eventbrite (subject to booking fees). We’ll be raising further funds by serving refreshments in the interval, so if you’d like to volunteer to help serve, bake or donate sweet treats then please speak to Vikki.

From Darkness to Light

I think for each of us, when we think about Spring, hope bubbles up in us. We notice those first shoots of snowdrops and daffodils even though we weren’t particularly looking for them or the hope that they bring. There’s something about moving from the darkness of winter to the emerging light of Spring that lifts us. I was looking through books on Lent and came across these words from Kenneth Grahame’s ‘Wind in the Willows’…

‘The Mole had been working very hard all the morning, spring-cleaning his little home. First with brooms, then with dusters; then on ladders and steps and chairs, with a brush, and a pail of whitewash; till he had dust in his throat and eyes, and splashes of whitewash all over his black fur, and an aching back and weary arms. Spring was moving in the air above and in the earth below and around him, penetrating even his dark and lowly little house with its spirit of divine discontent and longing. It was small wonder, then, that he suddenly flung down his brush on the floor, said, “Bother!” and “O blow!” and also “Hang, spring-cleaning!” and bolted out of the house without even waiting to put on his coat. Something up above was calling him imperiously… So he scraped and scratched and scribbled and scrooged, and then he scrooged again and scrabbled and scratched and scraped, working busily with his little paws and muttering to himself, “Up we go! Up we go!” till at last, pop! his snout came out into the sunlight, and he found himself rolling in the warm grass of a great meadow.’

I was drawn to the words ‘penetrating even his dark and lowly house with its spirit of divine discontent and longing’ and how once Mole had a strong sense of knowing he had to emerge from the darkness into the light. I love the line ‘and he found himself rolling in the warm grass of a great meadow.’ It’s a strong picture of the discontent of darkness vanishing as Mole bathed in the light.

Over generations, some people have said similar things when they’ve discovered for themselves the light of faith. They’ve described a God shaped hole within them that nothing in life could quench or that they knew that there must be more to life than what they were experiencing – something was missing or maybe it’s as Kenneth Grahame describes in a ‘spirit of divine discontent and longing.’

This month the church enters into Lent – a forty day period before Easter. It’s a time of reflection, of thinking about those areas in our lives where we need help from God (though that is available every day, all year round!). It’s a time to consider our relationship with God and with other people. Lent gives us space and time to pause, reflect and enter more intentionally into the habits of prayer, self examination and repentance. But where do we begin?

Well, we need to start from where we are not where we think we should be in order to be loved or accepted. Jesus meets us where we’re at, not where we think we should be. It can be a big step in facing that reality and recognising that we probably don’t ‘measure up’ to others expectations or to our own, but to begin a journey we simply have to start from where we’re at.

This Lent, Archbishops Justin & Stephen invite us to explore how we can live well with the mess of everyday life. The Lent theme of ‘Dust and Glory’ encourages us to take a fresh look at the frustrations and failings that every day brings and, rather than pretending we can always avoid them, seek to learn from them and grow closer to God through them. They recommend a book by Bishop Emma Ineson, ‘Failure: What Jesus said about sin, mistakes and messing stuff up’. There’s free online support for groups studying the book and in-depth video interviews with Archbishop Justin and others exploring the themes of each of the chapters. A short daily reflection and prayer is also available by app, email and the Daily Hope phone line 0800 804 8044 – I’m assured that you don’t have to have read the book to use this daily reflection.

I hope this helps you as we gradually emerge from the darkness of Winter into the hope of Spring, or as Mole would say ‘from the divine discontent’ into the warmth of the grass meadow basking in light.



Return to Thursday Morning Holy Communion Services

After two years of missing the fellowship as well as the privilege of being able to take Holy Communion together, we are very pleased to say that 10am services will be starting again in church on Thursday 7 April.

To begin with it will just be the first Thursday in every month but hopefully will soon become more frequent.

If you haven’t been to one of these services before, you’ll be very welcome to join us at what is a traditional, reflective and friendly celebration of Holy Communion. So, please put in your diaries 7 April, 5 May and 2 June.

Annual Church Meetings

The annual meeting to elect our Churchwardens will be held in church on Sunday 3rd April at 11am (after the conclusion of our 10.15am service) to be immediately followed by our Annual Parochial Church Meeting (APCM). We will be looking back over the past year and looking forward to the year ahead. There will be an opportunity to ask questions and we will be electing our Church Wardens and members of the PCC. The reports and agendas will be made available prior to the meeting.

Our first meeting will be to elect two Church Wardens. 

At the APCM we have our normal three vacancies for PCC with Hilary Crosby, Tom Harriden and Jenny Thorne completing their current term of office. 

So, as we approach the APCM please prayerfully consider who in the church family might have the gifts to serve as a church warden or on the PCC and encourage them to prayerfully consider standing. If you would like to stand for any of these roles or know more about what might be involved, please talk with our existing Warden, Stephen Adams, or any PCC member.

Nomination forms for the various roles will be available in church or from the church office. Please place completed forms in the box on the round table in church or return to the church office as soon as possible and before the date of the meetings.