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 Prologue (With an explanation of our services in Holy Week)
One of the ways in which authors introduce their novels or plays is to write a prologue, a broad preamble to their creation, which gives the bigger, panoramic picture before getting down to the detail of character, dialogue and plot.
Shakespeare, Dickens and Chaucer composed superb prologues to paint a backdrop to their stories onto which the players and characters would then appear, and the story that they had to tell would unfold. Shakespeare’s prologue to Romeo and Juliet outlines the heartache of love. Chaucer’s Prologue to the Canterbury Tales outlines the nature of pilgrimage for a diverse group of people.
The descriptive brilliance of Dickens in his Prologue to A tale of Two Cities, describes an era in turmoil.
“It was the best of times, it was the worst of times, it was the age of wisdom, it was the age of foolishness, it was the epoch of belief, it was the epoch of incredulity, it was the season of Light, it was the season of Darkness ….”
The writer of John’s Gospel (the fourth book of the New Testament - Chapter 1:1-18) also uses a prologue to paint a picture of creation with words that are just so evocative of Christmas services, the birth of Jesus and light coming into darkness. Here’s an excerpt…
“In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was in the beginning with God. All things came into being through him, and without him not one thing came into being. What has come into being in him was life, and the life was the light of all people. The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness did not overcome it…….”
This year, on Monday, Tuesday & Wednesday of Holy Week, we hope to create a prologue to the Easter Story through a series of services which include dramatic interpretations of familiar bible stories written from a fresh perspective. The idea being that the new telling of old stories will help us explore new understandings that will have a contemporary feel. Two stories retold from the perspective of women, and a retrospective courtroom drama that tries to determine who Jesus was. They’re not particularly long dramas, but quite thought provoking.
On Maundy Thursday we prepare for Good Friday through a Tenebrae service. The word ‘Tenebrae’ is Latin for shadows, and through the service we journey from light into darkness. One by one, the candles are extinguished as we sing reflective Easter hymns, and the Passion story is re-told. We depart in silence.
On Good Friday, there are three services around the Benefice:
• St Mary’s, Shinfield, 12 midday to 3pm, a traditional service of meditation with music and readings ending with Holy Communion (come and go as you’re able).
• St Michael’s, Spencers Wood, 2pm-3pm, a service of readings and hymns.
• All Saints,’ Swallowfield, 6.30pm, poetry, readings and music. Experience by candlelight, the stillness and beauty of this ancient church.
Easter Sunday begins at 6am with a dawn service around a blazing fire outside the church at St Mary’s Shinfield. The new Easter Candle is lit from the bonfire and we process into church for a service of light, which ends in the church hall with hot drinks and bacon butties! What better way to celebrate the light that refuses to be extinguished? (Let’s hope we don’t have the same problem with the fire refusing to go out – you have to see it to believe it!!!). Each church then has its own Easter Service at the usual times, later in the morning.
As and when you’re able to, please consider joining a diverse group of people on their pilgrimage around the benefice through Holy Week, explore the love of God with it’s joy and pain, and be transformed by the light of Easter that continues to shine against all odds.
Please check times and churches on the services page of this website.