We are a group of four Anglican parish churches who enjoy working collaboratively in serving the people and communities of Beech Hill, Farley Hill, Grazeley, Riseley, Shinfield, Spencers Wood, Swallowfield and Three Mile Cross. Our four parish churches are delightfully different in history and character, each offering a different take on what it means to be active, forward-looking, community-focussed churches of the 21st century. Each church also has its own style of worship, weekly activities and pattern of services that continue to evolve. You should find all you need to know about us as you engage with our website, but if you’d like to meet and talk something through in person… don’t hesitate to get in touch.
The Real Easter Egg?
You’ll have noticed a picture of the ‘Real Easter Egg’ on the front cover of this edition of the magazine, and you may be wondering what that’s about. Quite simply, approximately 80 million Easter Eggs are sold in the UK every year, and this is the first to tell the story of Easter. It’s usually difficult to get hold of other than online, but worth the effort, as the Egg comes with a book about the Easter Story.
Not only that, the chocolate is Fairtrade. Fair trade, defined simply, is when producers in developing countries are paid a fair price for their work, by companies in developed countries.
The cacao bean comes from a fruit with the Latin name of Theobroma Cacao, which translates as ‘Bitter fruit of God’. The raw cacao bean is extremely bitter tasting, more so even than the citrus taste of lemons. However, as people began to experiment with the bitter beans, they found that when they were crushed, and whisked together with water and sugar into a foaming, fermenting liquid, the mixture became a pleasant, yet very potent drink. So potent in fact, that it gave the drinker a serious chocolate ‘high’, and became highly addictive.
Because of its magical addictive qualities, this thick, luscious drink held a mysterious position in the rituals of Mayan and Aztec cultures.
According to history, our love affair with chocolate began when Columbus landed in South America in 1502 and was introduced to the cacao bean. But it was the Spanish explorer, Hernando Cortez, who introduced it to Europe. In 1519, Cortez and his men witnessed Montezuma, ruler of the Aztecs, drinking copious amounts of fermented chocolate from a golden goblet, and when they tried it, they too were hooked!
The downside is that the cacao bean was quickly recognized as a valuable commercial product in Spain and other European countries and, by the 17th century, the foundations of the Transatlantic Slave Trade had become firmly established. The most iniquitous and inhuman abuse of colonialism.
History tells us that the addictive properties of the drink were so pronounced, the Catholic church insisted that, apart from feast days, it should be given up for the whole of lent! (So now we know where the idea came from!)
There is a remarkable tale of a Bishop who tried to stop women drinking chocolate in church!
“By the late 1600s, the grand ladies of the land had become so fond of this frothy beverage that they were accustomed to having it served to them frequently, even in church. As justification for their enjoyment, they referred to its medicinal use, and claimed it prevented fainting and ‘weakness’ during the long ceremonies.
One bishop considered it a blatant abuse, and forbad the practice. Drinking chocolate in church obviously broke the fast laws. (Not to mention that so much pleasure must be pagan!) The ladies, in retaliation, simply took themselves and their entourage to another church. A rumour holds that the offending clergyman later died of a cup of poisoned chocolate. The whole affair became a fearful scandal.” *
Because of its sustained popularity over the past five centuries, chocolate, in many forms, continues to be given as a gift at our main celebrations, and even though we don’t experience chocolate as a fermented drink, it is still viewed as a being not a little addictive.
For me, and for many, many people, the story of Jesus is equally addictive. The ‘Opium of the People’ as Karl Marx would say. Over the past 20 centuries, millions of people have been drawn to the rich, sometimes heady stories of Jesus. Stories that exemplify how to live life in ways that express generous love. A generous love that for Jesus involved the bitterness of a painful, excruciating death and the sweetness of a risen life - the stone being rolled away to reveal an empty tomb! The Real Easter brings new life out of emptiness.
Alleluia Christ is risen – He is risen indeed, Alleluia.
Happy Easter and enjoy your chocolate eggs.