Explore life, faith and meaning with Alpha

The Alpha Course logoSt Michael’s, Offham are running an Alpha course for our local Cluster starting on Monday 17th September at 7.00 p.m. with sessions hosted at the Jabez Barn next to St Michael’s Church, Church Road, Offham.

All sessions will centre around a good hot meal (kindly supplied by The Swan, West Malling) and with an opportunity to hear about, discuss and ask questions about the basics of Christian faith.

For those who have not heard of Alpha before, it is a free-of-charge course exploring the basics of the Christian faith, typically run over ten or eleven weeks. It started at one church in London and has since become a major enterprise with courses run all over the country and all around the world.

Each talk looks at different questions around faith and is designed to create a conversation.  Alpha is run all around the globe, and everyone is welcome.  It runs in cafes, churches, universities, homes – you name it.  No two Alphas look exactly the same, but generally they have three key things in common: food, a talk and good conversation and open discussion.

Alpha is perfect for two groups of people. If you are a churchgoer and want to do a refresher on the basics of your Christian faith and perhaps fill in a few gaps in your understanding or ask questions you never get to ask, Alpha is for you.

Alpha is also great for anyone who doesn’t currently call themselves a Christian, but is interested in exploring God, the meaning of life and the big questions we all ask, and examining what Jesus and the Christian faith has to offer. If you’re still wondering, you can watch an introduction video online via YouTube.

Contact us now to book your place or if you have a question you’d like to ask before you book in. There’s a maximum limit of 20 people and it is starting to fill up!

Holy Week and Easter Services 2018

We thought you might like to take note of the Holy Week and Easter events and services taking place in Offham, Kings Hill and West Malling.

Sunday 25 March, Palm Sunday services
in all churches at the usual start times.

Maundy Thursday, 29 March, 7 for 7.30 p.m. start
A Seder Meal to mark Maundy Thursday
St Lawrence’s Church, Mereworth

Good Friday, 30 March, 9.15 am
Morning Prayer
St Michael’s Church, Offham

Good Friday, 30 March, 10.00 am
Interactive Easter
St Gabriel’s Church, Kings Hill (Discovery School main hall)

Good Friday, 30 March, 11.00 am
Churches Together Good Friday Walk of Witness
Begins at St Thomas More RC Church, Lucks Hill, West Malling

Good Friday, 30 March, 2.00 pm
Quiet Hour
St Mary’s Church, West Malling

Good Friday, 30 March, 3.30 pm
X-plore Easter – Children’s Easter craft activities
St Mary’s Church Centre, West Malling

Easter Sunday, 1 April, 6.45 am
Easter Dawn Service
St Michael’s Church, Offham

Easter Sunday, 1 April, 8.00 am
Book of Common Prayer Holy Communion
St Mary’s Church, West Malling

Easter Sunday, 1 April, 9.15 am
Easter Sunday All-Age Holy Communion
St Michael’s Church, Offham

Easter Sunday, 1 April, 10.00 am
Easter Sunday All-Age Holy Communion
St Gabriel’s Church, Kings Hill (Discovery School)

Easter Sunday, 1 April, 10.00 am
Easter Sunday All-Age Holy Communion
St Mary’s Church, West Malling

Mothering Sunday 2018

Mothering Sunday this year is Sunday the 11th of March.

Traditionally a time in which people returned to their “Mother Church” (the church were they were baptised), today it is widely recognised as a day to celebrate mothers, motherhood in all its forms and to support and comfort those for whom it is a hard day.

There will be services for Mothering Sunday in Offham (at 9.15 a.m.) and in West Malling (at 10.00 a.m.).

Everyone is most welcome.

David is made Vicar

A photo of David kneeling before the Archdeacon as his licence is read aloud.On Thursday February 22nd, St Mary’s was pleased to welcome our brothers and sisters from St Michael’s, Offham and St Gabriel’s, Kings Hill and our Archdeacon, the Venerable Julie Conalty for a special service to ‘induct and install’ David Green as the new ‘Vicar of West Malling and Rector of Offham’.

Regular readers will be aware that, in December, we announced Rev David was to be made ‘Vicar and Rector’ in late January. Unfortunately that service had to be postponed but with Her Majesty’s Letters Patent in hand and able to read aloud in the service, we were finally able to move ahead.

David chose the same readings and hymns that he had at his licensing service in 2011 when he was made ‘Priest-in-Charge’. They provided an interesting mirror image to the service that enabled us to both look back at his six and a half years of ministry here as well as the chance to look forward to all that lies ahead.

The service was led by our new Archdeacon, Ven Julie Conalty who preached the sermon on the theme of unity (you can read the sermon in this month’s Parish Magazine – this link opens a PDF file).

David was asked to renew his vows of loyalty to Her Majesty the Queen and to the Bishop of Rochester and a series of people from our three churches handed David various symbols of ministry and asked him to renew his pledges as a Minister. Perhaps most moving of all were a couple of children – sisters Lizzy and Immy from Offham who came forward to ask David: “Will you in the strength of the Holy Spirit, continually stir up the gift of God that is in you, to make Christ known among all whom you serve?” He promised Lizzy and Immy and all of us that “By God’s help” he would do so.

The Archdeacon of Tonbridge read aloud the Bishop’s licence and then instituted, anointed and blessed David for service in these parishes. As is common in such inductions, David was then taken to the front doors to be handed his keys (a symbol of his stewardship of the care of the buildings), taken to the bells to ring them, thus indicating he had taken up his role, and finally to his priest’s stall where Julie took him by the hand and placed him in position!

Speaking after the service, David was asked if he felt any different. He said “I appreciate it has been important for many different people to see this take place but the job I do on a day-to-day basis won’t change. Perhaps my halo will glow a bit brighter now! Otherwise we simply move forward together with unity of purpose as Julie said.”

For the uninitiated, what’s changed?

When David was appointed in 2011, he was licensed as ‘Priest-in-Charge’ of our parishes. While the job he has done for us in these last six years has been identical in almost every respect to that of a Vicar, this formal ‘upgrade’ in his status as our Minister does give him a better security of tenure in his role, and it represents an important step forward for our parishes.

Vicar, Rector – what’s the difference?

The difference is largely historical and has to do with money. In the days when Tithes were paid in England someone was entitled to receive that money. Where a church paid that tithe to the Incumbent, he was a Rector. Where someone else got the tithe and they had to appoint someone ‘vicariously’ to lead the churches on their behalf, that person was called a Vicar.

Advent & Christmas services 2017

We thought you might like to take note of the Advent and Christmas special events and services taking place in Offham and West Malling.

West Malling Handel's Messiah 2017
Sun 3 Dec, 5.00 pm West Malling Community Choir Christmas Concert
St Mary’s, West Malling. Find out more on the WMCC website.

Wed 6 Dec, 7.00 pm West Malling Carol service
St Mary’s, West Malling
Readings and carols telling the Christmas story. This year’s service is held in conjunction with the charity Fields of Life who work in Africa. They will be talking about their work within the service and the Collection on the evening will be donated to their projects.

Sun 10 Dec, 5.00 pm Come and Sing! Handel’s Messiah
St Mary’s, West Malling
Jamie Meaders will lead a choir of over 100 people in rehearsals from 2pm onwards with anyone welcome to sign-up to ‘Come and Sing’. £10 per person. At 5pm, accompanied by soloists, strings and harpsichord, we will sing together the Christmas portion of Handel’s Messiah. Hallelujah!

Wed 13 Dec, 7.00 pm Heart of Kent Hospice Christmas Concert
St Mary’s, West Malling. Find out more on the HoKH website.

Christingle service at Offham

Offham Christingle (17 December)

Sun 17 Dec, 4.00 pm Christingle service,
St Michael’s, Offham
An afternoon candle-lit service for all the family with carols, a family-friendly talk from our Vicar and Christingles for all the children.

Tue 19 Dec, 8.00 pm Carol service
St Michael’s, Offham
An evening candle-lit service of Christmas readings and carols with guest Richard King and friends leading a special guest choir to complement the congregation’s singing!

Tue 19 Dec, 9.30 am West Malling CEP School Christmas Service
St Mary’s, West Malling

Thu 21 Dec, 7.30 pm Carols in The King’s Arms
The King’s Arms Pub, Offham
The King’s Arms play host to an evening of carol singing with the odd glass of mulled wine in three to lubricate the vocal chords!

A photo of the choir from the Carol Service at Offham, 2012

Richard King and friends,
Offham Carol Service (19 December)

Sun 24 Dec, 3.30 pm Christingle service with nativity,
St Mary’s, West Malling
Candle-lit Crib service with a Nativity play from St Mary’s Sunday School and lots of carol singing. Christingles will be distributed at the end for children. Come early to avoid disappointment. If you miss out, you may like to come to the second service at 5 p.m (see below). Often attended by families with pre-school children but all ages are welcome.

Sun 24 Dec, 5.00 pm Christingle service with nativity,
St Mary’s, West Malling
A repeat of the 3.30 p.m. service. Candle-lit Crib service with a Nativity play from St Mary’s Sunday School and lots of carol singing. Christingles will be distributed at the end for children. Doors will not open until after 4.30 p.m. when the previous service concludes. Often attended by families with primary-age children but all ages are welcome.

Sun 24 Dec, 11.15 pm Midnight Communion
St Mary’s, West Malling
The first service of Christmas Day is a traditional Midnight Mass with Carols and Holy Communion.

Mon 25 Dec, 8.00 am Holy Communion (BCP)
St Mary’s, West Malling
Traditional language, reflective and quiet Book of Common Prayer Holy Communion service.

A photo of the Nativity play from St Mary's, 2012

Christingle with Nativity, West Malling
(Christmas Eve)

Mon 25 Dec, 9.15 am All-Age Communion service
St Michael’s, Offham
Child-friendly Eucharist service to celebrate Christmas Day.

Mon 25 Dec, 10.00 am All-Age Communion service
St Mary’s, West Malling
Child-friendly Eucharist service to celebrate Christmas Day.

Sun 7 Jan, 7.30 pm Baptism of Christ service for the Malling Cluster
St Dunstan’s, West Peckham.
The five churches of Offham, Kings Hill, West Malling, West Peckham and Mereworth gather on the Epiphany/Baptism of Christ weekend to mark the end of the Christmas celebration.

Music at Malling 2017

Polly Gibbons and James Pearson perform at Music@Malling 2013

Visit the Music at Malling website

The seventh Music@Malling Festival returns to West Malling this month. Outstanding artists will be performing an eclectic mix of great music in historic venues from the 21st to 30th September.

The festival kicks off at The Farmhouse in West Malling with Lizzie Ball and friends performing music ranging from Bach to Bluegrass.

James Pearson, Artistic Director of Ronnie Scott’s, makes a welcome return performing Bachology with his legendary trio and James will be also be a soloist in Gershwin’s Rhapsody in Blue with the fabulous Callum Au Big Band.

Bach features in seven concerts including the complete Violin Partitas and Sonatas with virtuoso violinist, Thomas Bowes, and a concert given by the internationally renowned organist Kevin Bowyer at the Chapel of St. Augustine, Tonbridge School.

Classic FM Artist, Craig Ogden, will be performing a guitar recital in Birling and Finnish flautist, Sami Junnonen performs Bach alongside the music of our time in the spectacular setting of St.Peter and St.Paul’s, Trottiscliffe.

We commemorate the First World War this year with concerts at Pilsdon Barn Chapel and The Control Tower, Kings Hill with works written during the conflict.

The outstanding cellist Richard Harwood performs the cello suites of Max Reger at Malling Abbey. These rarely heard works are a fascinating, modern take on Bach. Richard is also the soloist in Elgar’s Cello Concerto in a concert alongside works by Vaughan Williams including The Lark Ascending. Chamber Domaine perform side-by-side with musicians from across Kent.

The music of contemporary composers Alexander Goehr and Paul Patterson are programmed across the festival.

Hundreds of primary school children will be involved in a project based around Roald Dahl’s Revolting Rhymes. The concerts are the culmination of a groundbreaking education project engaging young people with creativity and performance. The concert includes a performance of Paul Patterson’s Little Red Riding Hood.

All Saints’ Church, Tudeley, with its Marc Chagall windows, will be the spectacular setting for a performance of Messiaen’s Quartet for the End of Time. James Pearson opens the concert with an improvisation and Chamber Domaine, with composer and clarinettist Mark Simpson, perform this iconic work which was written in a concentration camp.

Music@Malling are very grateful for the help of a wide range of national, regional and local supporters. The festival promises to be a memorable series of events!

Thomas Kemp – Artistic Director

Alan Gibbins – Chairman

Annual Offham May Day Celebrations

Offham’s May Day 2017

Saturday 29th April – 12pm to 5pm

Come along to this year’s annual village May Day celebrations, featuring may great events such as ‘The Great Offham Bake Off’, ‘May Queen Procession’ and ‘The Offham Dog Show’, to name a few.

Everyone is invited – we hope to see you there!

For further information, please see the flyer attached

How to find us

Holy Week and Easter services 2017

We thought you might like to take note of the Holy Week and Easter events and services taking place in Offham, Kings Hill and West Malling.

Sunday 9 April, Palm Sunday services
in all churches at the usual start times.

Tuesday 11 April, 7.30pm
Stations of the Cross
St Mary’s Church, West Malling

Maundy Thursday, 13 April, 7 for 7.30 p.m. start
A Seder Meal to mark Maundy Thursday
St Lawrence’s Church, Mereworth

Good Friday, 14 April, 9.15 am
Morning Prayer
St Michael’s Church, Offham

Good Friday, 14 April, 10.00 am
Interactive Easter Family Service
St Gabriel’s Church, Kings Hill (Discovery School main hall)

Good Friday, 14 April, 11.00 am
Churches Together Good Friday Walk of Witness
Begins at St Thomas More RC Church, Lucks Hill, West Malling

Good Friday, 14 April, 2.00 pm
Quiet Hour
St Mary’s Church, West Malling

Good Friday, 14 April, 3.30 pm
X-plore Easter – Children’s Easter craft activities
St Mary’s Church Centre, West Malling

Easter Sunday, 16 April, 6.15 am
Easter Dawn Service
St Michael’s Church, Offham

Easter Sunday, 16 April, 8.00 am
Book of Common Prayer Holy Communion
St Mary’s Church, West Malling

Easter Sunday, 27 March, 9.15 am
Easter Sunday All-Age Holy Communion
St Michael’s Church, Offham

Easter Sunday, 16 April, 10.00 am
Easter Sunday All-Age Holy Communion
St Gabriel’s Church, Kings Hill (Discovery School)

Easter Sunday, 16 April, 10.00 am
Easter Sunday Holy Communion
St Mary’s Church, West Malling

St Michael’s Offham secures National Lottery investment

Heritage Lottery Fund logo St Michael’s Church in Offham has received a confirmed grant of £65,600 from the Heritage Lottery Fund (HLF) for the church’s restoration and renewal project, it was announced today. The Grade I listed parish church needs significant repairs which this grant will help to fund.

The project aims to carry out essential and urgent repairs to the church’s roof and replace all of the guttering to prevent water further damaging the building. The project will also help to make the building more available to the local community with plans to digitise the photographic archive of the church online and provide a new educational programme for local schools.

Epiphany 2012, St Michael's in Offham
St Michael’s is a focal point for the local community in Offham and an important hidden gem in the Kent countryside because it is an almost complete late 11th or early 12th century church with a handful of important architectural features. The church appears in the Textus Roffensis, a document written in 1122, and Offham appears in the Domesday Book of 1086. It is Grade I listed.

The Heritage Lottery Fund provided £7,600 of development funding at an earlier stage of the project to enable important archaeological, environmental and other surveys to take place. The first phase came in on time and under budget with a total cost of just over £12,000.

Rev David Green stands out St Michael's following news of the HLF grant.The church and local community in Offham raised the rest themselves through donations and fund-raising events which included a jazz concert, a harp concert, a heritage lecture and a ‘dog party’ for local dog-walkers. Alongside the National Lottery money promised for the next phase, the church are raising £14,000 themselves towards the work with the final bill for both phases anticipated to be over £90,000.

The local Priest-in-Charge, Rev David Green, said:

“We are delighted that the HLF have confirmed their continuing support. Just as the local people of Offham have got behind us and been so supportive, the HLF have been great partners throughout the project so far and we’re now able to look forward to seeing our beautiful and atmospheric ancient building restored for the benefit of everyone.”

Stuart McLeod, Head of HLF South East, said:

“We’re delighted that we can support St Michael’s Church to save their historic building for future generations. Thanks to National Lottery players, the project will not only carry out urgent repairs, but also make local history accessible for the wider community.”

Beyond the Referendum

Leaver & Remainer stand before the AltarOur Priest-in-Charge, David, and our Licensed Lay Minister, Becky, discuss the recent result of the Referendum on Britain’s membership of the European Union.

D: We are both Christian people, living in West Malling, worshipping and sharing together in our local community. You voted to Leave the EU. I voted to Remain. What was it that was most important to you about voting to leave?

B: It’s a very complex situation, so there are no simple answers. I think the more distant a parliament is from its electorate, the more likely it is that the legislation they propose will have unintended, negative consequences. I think there is a very strong case for structural reform, limiting the scope of EU powers. This is not just about Britain: there are other countries within the Union (Greece and Cyprus for example) where there is a great deal of disaffection with the EU. I was quite aware that voting ‘Leave’ was a risk and there were likely to be financial repercussions. Sometimes risks are necessary to effect change. I hope it will be change for the better. Why did you vote Remain?

D: I tried to consider both sides carefully but ultimately, I felt that a lot of the Leave arguments relied on things that I felt weren’t true. The £350 million figure, the supposed loss of Sovereignty. I do think we have a problem of population capacity and we do need control, but that was outweighed for me by the economic side of things, worries about a political vacuum or major swing to the Right and I felt certain politicians were telling half-truths or lies. So I decided to Remain. Any regrets?

B: I absolutely regret that some Europeans who now live in this country suddenly feel that they are no longer welcome. I’d feel the same way about any immigrant, whatever their nationality. I’m aware just how important these people are for many successful businesses including, for example, some of our local farms – we can’t do without them. Equally, I’m appalled that those on the Far Right feel liberated to make xenophobic protests; they’re divisive and hurtful. I’m less concerned about the financial side of things because market volatility happens and will calm. But the Press doesn’t tell stories like mine – I guess it’s just not just newsworthy. But no, I don’t regret voting the way I did. What about you?

D: No regrets for me but plenty of hurts. It does feel raw and painful. Especially when it started to emerge that some Leave voters had done so either because of racism, or because they wanted to give David Cameron a black eye but didn’t think Leave would win, or because they really didn’t understand the question. That upset me greatly. One thing we can agree on though is that racism or xenophobia or ugly treatment of those from other nations is simply not acceptable, and as Christians, we need to be brave and stand up to resist that.

I think the penny dropped for me a little when I was teaching about bereavement on a pastoral care course this week. The shock and disbelief of Remainers, their denial of the result (and wanting to do it all again), the anger and abuse are all typical symptoms of grief. There’s a mourning going on for something that has died for them – rightly or wrongly, they feel like part of their identity as Brits, as Europeans, has died. It’s a loss and like any loss, people will grieve.

B: They may feel that way now; I understand that feeling. But we can be European without being in the EU. I see myself as European as much as I am British (and probably quite a lot of other stuff as well). We are still a country in Europe – we can’t not be. I’ve recently come back from Montenegro which isn’t in the EU (so Montenegrins have to obtain a visa to visit the UK) but they trade in Euros. Croatia, next door, is in the EU but trades in Kunas. There were border controls between the two but no problem with passing between. There are a lot of different ways of being in Europe which don’t necessarily entail being part of the gigantic bureaucracy that is the EU.

D: Absolutely. That’s the thing all Brits need to embrace now – how can we be outward looking, European, and so on, but simply not part of the EU. I wrote in last month’s parish magazine that regardless of the result, the key would be how we come together as one nation again when we have had to vote on a question that inevitably polarizes everyone – regions of the UK, towns and communities, older and younger voters, even families. Reconciliation and healing is vital. Remainers, like myself, now need to do their bit to prove we were wrong and the Leavers were right.

B: Thank you. For Leavers I think it’s vital we voice our opposition to xenophobic and racist actions. It’s important not to gloat, to act with integrity and good grace. It’s all going to take time: we’ll need to be patient. Within the church, to continue to pray for the political process, for the politicians and all involved in disentangling. We need to pray for the EU itself, and for those within the UK who are in deep despair at the result. I don’t like language of winning and losing because that mentality won’t help, but it’s quite hard being on the ‘winning’ side when a) you know your actions have produced deep distress and will continue to do so and b) you suspect you are being tarred with the brush of being a non-thinking bigot.

D: There’s no excuse for Remainers to be abusive – misdirected anger and abuse is not healthy grief. But if I may offer something for Leavers – if Remainers are grieving – then like any bereavement, there’s good things to do and say, and things to not do or say. A grieving widow doesn’t need to hear that ‘time is a great healer’ or ‘I know how you feel’. It doesn’t help. Saying ‘it will all work out’ doesn’t help Remainers right now. I also wonder whether, like any bereavement, the Church can help with that by providing space for such thoughts and prayers in the way we would at a funeral.

The former Bishop of Tonbridge, Brian Castle, is a bit of an expert in reconciliation and he’s written recently that the UK can’t reconcile yet. He says “reconciliation can only happen when the roar of battle has died down, when all involved regard themselves as equals (there can be no victims when pursuing reconciliation) and when people can talk about their hopes, aspirations and fears.” He also says it needs all parties to be open to change for the sake of the other. If we rush to reconcile, we won’t let the wound truly be clean before it heals over.

B: My prayer is that our churches will be able to model how to disagree well: how to keep our hearts, minds and arms open to embrace others despite the uncertainty and despite the hurt. We need to build a future now in which Remainers and Leavers can come together as one nation. I can only promise to try to do my bit.

D: Amen to that.

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