Westwood: St Mary the Virgin

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FROM THE RECTOR…               


That feels a strange thing to say from my vantage point of writing early in March when Lent has only just begun. But come the beginning of April, the schools will be breaking up and it will be well-nigh Easter! Though there is another reason. Whilst life amidst the peace and Spring beauty of Westwood so often seems far removed from the cares of the world – and to a great extent it is – we have been reminded all too starkly in recent weeks just how small the world is, and how there are no barriers. The rapid spread of the Coronavirus across the world has affected everyone to some extent or another, and we can only re-act as the science has not been able to advance at sufficient pace for us to be pro-active. So we watch and wait, and hope and pray.

And ‘watching and waiting’ is very much a Lenten mind-set as we seek to journey to the cross with Jesus. Of course we now have the benefit of hindsight, but he was on a trajectory where his disciples at the time could do no other than to watch and wait. And so it is with the Coronavirus: we have no idea quite what is going to happen. So – whatever – Easter will give us all a chance to celebrate and to smile!  Jesus Christ, who had suffered so acutely, is risen again.  Alleluia!                    

With every blessing 

Joanna   The Revd Canon Joanna Abecassis Tel: 864444    Email: joanna.abecassis@cantab.net   www.htboa.org 

Article published: 23 Mar 2020

FROM THE RECTOR…               

As we observe the seasons unfold around us and, at this time of year, the wonder of new life appearing all around us, so we are becoming more and more aware of our immense vulnerability in the face of God’s creation.  We have undoubtedly taken huge advantage of it and, in certain parts of the world especially, it’s tragically as if creation is finding its own ways of revealing our pitiful frailty.

But then we do seasons in the church too!  They also relate to nature’s calendar – especially Feasts like Candlemas (2 February) which marks the end of the Season of the Incarnation as the baby Jesus is presented in the temple, for in the Celtic tradition in Ireland this was known as Imbolc and marked the beginning of spring – but mainly of course to major events in the life of Christ. So on 26 February this year, we mark the beginning of Lent with Ash Wednesday – a day of penitence in the church, or a recognition of our human frailty; and that will take us right through to Palm Sunday on 5 April. And the word Lent is an interesting one. It comes from the Old English ‘lencten’ meaning ‘spring’, but then there is also that French verb ‘lentir’ meaning ‘slow down’… So perhaps the combination of the two will provide us with ample food for thought as we ponder our human frailty alongside the glory of God?  

With every blessing  Joanna

The Revd Canon Joanna Abecassis                            Tel: 864444

E mail: joanna.abecassis@cantab.net                     www.htboa.org 

Article published: 25 Jan 2020

FROM THE RECTOR…                

The two months ahead are certainly going to be action-packed and momentous!  Advent, when we anticipate and prepare for the coming of Christ, Christmas, when we celebrate the tremendous joy of that coming, his birth, and then Epiphany, when we remember the coming of the three kings or magi who were to spread the good news across the Gentile world.  But then – for the first time since 1923 – in the midst of all this drama, we have a General Election!  

My hope and prayer is that we can weave it all together in our minds, and not compartmentalise.  Let’s be like foxes – who apparently pursue many unrelated ends at once, and then fling them out in all directions, so living a life of trust, trial, and transformation – as opposed to the more predictable way of certainty, comfort and clarity!  So maybe we might try and be open to the themes of these great christian seasons in our lives: concepts such as awe and wonder, holiness and anticipation (Advent), joy, hope, love, peace (Christmas), and glory, new life bursting forth, and transformation (Epiphany), and then make them our own, rather than ‘flinging them out’.  And wouldn’t it be wonderful if, as a nation, we went to the ballot box in that spirit of hope, love and transformation?  In the words of Mother Teresa: “Let peace fill our heart, our world, our universe. Peace, peace, peace”.                                

With every blessing for a wonderful Christmas and New Year!

Joanna    The Revd Canon Joanna Abecassis Tel: 864444 E mail: joanna.abecassis@cantab.net      www.htboa.org 

Article published: 23 Nov 2019

FROM THE RECTOR…               

Whatever age we may be, I think we all have a very strong natural instinct to belong.  And for that we need community, stability and, perhaps above all, to be understood and to be valued for who we are.  And so in these continuing times of enormous political and national instability and uncertainty, perhaps the local takes on an ever greater importance?  Living in a village, and in such a small and supportive community as Westwood, there is a real sense of continuity and wellbeing: somewhere to belong.     

And of course that has always been one of the great strengths of the Christian faith and of the church.  It is all about community.  We are never on our own, we belong.  And we know that we are Christ’s body on earth today – we seek to follow him and his way, and we know that he is always with us.  And that is becoming an increasingly precious gift in these uncertain times.  

So October and November are traditionally times of thanksgiving and of remembering.  And on Sunday, 6 October at 11.15am we shall be holding our Harvest Thanksgiving Family Service, where we shall be hearing about and supporting a new medical project in Kadugli Diocese, Sudan.  Do join us, and for lunch afterwards!  And then on Sunday, 10 November at 10.55am, there will be our Remembrance Sunday Service, always a very special time.             

With every blessing, Joanna

The Revd Canon Joanna Abecassis                            Tel: 864444

E mail: joanna.abecassis@cantab.net                     www.htboa.org 

Article published: 29 Sep 2019


It strikes me that the months of July and August are totally contrasting: a month traditionally of rest, and then a month of action as everything starts anew.  And so there is a real threshold between the two, wonderfully marked in Westwood by the Flower and Vegetable Show.  And I really hope that it will be as happy and sunny a community event as was the Church Fκte in July!

And I think that one of the great strengths of the life of a traditional parish church is that observation of the seasons.  So the major festivals of the church and the different seasons of the church year like Epiphany, Lent and Easter for example (all in pretty quick succession) serve to break up the year and concentrate the mind.  So we use different colours for the vestments, different readings, different hymns – all appropriate to the season – which is really helpful, and especially so when we ‘lurch’ from Advent to Christmas or Lent to Easter.  But right now, we are in the calm waters of “Ordinary Time” and green colour – the next big Festival being Harvest on 6 October. Similarly, that balance between rest and work is so important in our lives – and it is a great blessing for those of us who can enjoy both. Every single day is a gift and is special   so let’s be thankful and make the most of each one!

 with every blessing,   Joanna    The Revd Canon Joanna Abecassis                              Tel: 864444E mail: joanna.abecassis@cantab.net                    www.htboa.org 

Article published: 29 Jul 2019

FROM THE RECTOR…               

Summer is with us, resplendent with all its magnificent colour, scents and sounds. And so it occurred to me that during the tenure of this issue, we shall be able to experience and enjoy the longest day of the year! Just as we are all so good at focussing on and spreading the bad news of the world (and let’s face it, there’s been enough of it…), so too do we love to fret about all those short, dark days of winter.    

So this is a real opportunity to celebrate! And by way of ‘book-ends’, the week before we shall have had the opportunity to enjoy Westwood at its best at the Safari Supper, and then three weeks later that great village event of the Church Summer Fκte.  But how shall we mark God’s gift to us all of the day itself? Let’s make the most of the opportunity to be outdoors, to be thankful for the riches and the joys of life, and to step back, be still, and simply wonder at the marvels of those colours, scents and sounds. And the seasons themselves are a marvel, for if we stay up too late in our joy, the birds will be singing all over again! God is good – and as a retired bishop has just written, our principal call and privilege as a church is: “to give people that liberating experience of encounter with God”.                

With every blessing    Joanna   The Revd Canon Joanna Abecassis   Tel: 864444  E mail: anna.abecassis@cantab.net   www.htboa.org
Article published: 27 May 2019

FROM THE RECTOR…               

I cherish this time of year as the days so visibly lengthen, the birds begin to sing their hearts out and the leaves and flowers begin to burst forth. We are blessed with a very beautiful and peaceful spot at your Parish Church, and care deeply about our environment.  After all, God’s creation is incredibly special and to be lovingly treasured and tended.  And so having just had a very happy and successful Fairtrade weekend, we hope to soon be a ‘Fairtrade Church’!  Next stop will be becoming an Eco Church.              

And so this is a time of real hope as we look around us.  And it is a time of real hope for the church as we contemplate during these two months the Passion of Jesus Christ, where his love for each one of us, and his commitment to following his Father’s will, is so great that his painful and lonely journey to the cross becomes all the more poignant.  But then… we have all our hopes spectacularly renewed as we celebrate his resurrection on Easter Day!  Alleluia, Christ is risen!  So do come and join us.      

With every blessing    Joanna   The Revd Canon Joanna Abecassis   Tel: 864444  E mail: anna.abecassis@cantab.net   www.htboa.org 

Article published: 24 Mar 2019

FROM THE RECTOR…               

Thinking about the months of February and March launches us forward brilliantly to those longer days and the coming of spring.  But… the Update deadline comes tantalisingly the day before “the vote” in parliament and so, whereas the end of March should represent a quite extraordinary sea-change in the life of our country and a very significant new start, in practice, we just do not know what is going to happen…  And that leads to the most enormous uncertainty for us all, and a very costly uncertainty for many, whose lives and businesses hang in the balance.

But then the church and the Christian faith is all about uncertainty!  It is about spirituality, the beyond – about trust – about faith.  I am reminded of those famous words of King George VI at another great threshold in 1939: "I said to the man who stood at the Gate of the Year, 'Give me a light that I may tread safely into the unknown'. And he replied, 'Go out into the darkness and put your hand into the Hand of God. That shall be to you better than light and safer than a known way.'"                             

With every blessing for those uncertain waters ahead.                                     


The Revd Canon Joanna Abecassis   Tel: 864444

E mail: joanna.abecassis@cantab.net   www.htboa.org 

Article published: 30 Jan 2019

FROM THE RECTOR…               

Our Remembrance commemorations have way exceeded all expectations, with the fantastic array of poppies in church, the very moving School Service, the ‘standing room only’ Remembrance Sunday Service’, the Memorial Booklet, the individual named poppies, and the exhibition complete with delicious lunch.  And it seems to me that what this speaks of most of all is the power of community.  To hear the stories – to meet the descendants - to ponder life in our very own community 100 years ago – even who was living in ‘our’ house at that time… is powerful and unifying.  It draws us together.                      

And so now we come to contemplate and to celebrate the joy of the birth of the ‘Prince of Peace’ at Christmas.  There will be all the usual – and wonderful – Services, but my particular hope and prayer this year is that we can really continue that sense of community.  We are all God’s children, created and loved equal in his sight – members of one enormous family.  So let’s resist the temptation to crawl back into our bunkers, and make Christmas a fantastic opportunity for loving and sharing.   

With every blessing – and for the New Year!    Joanna The Revd Canon Joanna Abecassis    Tel: 864444

E mail: joanna.abecassis@cantab.net    www.htboa.org
Article published: 28 Nov 2018

FROM THE RECTOR…                

 As the days close in and the temperature drops, the months of October and November are the time to snuggle up, to reflect and to remember.  And this year, marking the centenary of the end of the First World War, and with Remembrance Sunday very conveniently falling on the 11th day of the 11th month, is particularly poignant.  And there will be an enormous amount of material and events out there to inform and inspire.    

 So here at your Parish Church is no exception – and we shall be adorned with a vast array of amazing knitted and crocheted poppies which Mary Needham has commissioned.  We look forward to welcoming you to a very special Service at 10.55am on Remembrance Sunday, and then please do join us for a village lunch in the Parish Rooms afterwards.  If 2014 is anything to go by, it will be an occasion to remember and standing room only.  And then in the 11 days beforehand, look out for all the ‘Countdown to Peace’ events and exhibitions in Bradford on Avon.                    

 With every blessing                                 


 The Revd Canon Joanna Abecassis

Tel: 864444

E mail: joanna.abecassis@cantab.net


Article published: 01 Oct 2018

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