Dear friends,

I am delighted to report that attendance at Mass last Sunday surpassed 60 souls for the first time since my Induction: this figure is a third higher than our average attendance submission in last year’s Church of England Statistics for Mission count. Thank you for your faithfulness, and praise God for His! As in last week’s mailing, I would like to repeat my encouragement to you that, should you for any reason be unable to come to Mass on any given Sunday morning, please instead come to the 6pm Vigil Mass on Saturday evening, wherever possible. Despite the freezing temperatures this week, St Mary’s is rather toasty (on account of other events taking place in church, for which heating has been requested): come along this weekend for the warmth of the welcome and of the building!

In this Sunday’s Gospel, we hear the story of Jesus’ encounter with the woman at the well, to whom he promises living water. Like water, God’s grace in our lives is a power which cleanses, refreshes and nourishes – without which our lives become spiritually dry. Human beings can on average survive only three days without water – but how long do we suppose we can survive and thrive spiritually without a eucharistic encounter with Christ, the water of life? The woman at the well asks Jesus to give her that water with which one will never be thirsty again, so that she need not repeat the arduous journey to the well, in the desert heat of high noon. To us also, Jesus offers a gift which changes our perspective, and reorientates our lives away from their daily grind, and worldly weariness. He pours into our hearts new aspiration and ambition, to be children of God and people of grace and citizens of the Kingdom of heaven. Jesus saw into the heart of the woman he encountered, and recognised the sins and setbacks of her life: he likewise understands our deepest dreams and fears, and with love and compassion comes to meet us in our need. Let us come boldly to Christ, who responds to our limitations and longings – by offering us spiritual regeneration in the waters of the new Creation manifested in His Passion and His Cross.

Our joint parish pilgrimage to Walsingham will take place 6 – 9 June: please sign up now (on the list in church) for this beautiful occasion of refreshment and renewal. With Fr Jason and Fr Colin, I have worked hard to secure this opportunity, at a significantly subsidised cost: it would be so disappointing if we are not as large a pilgrim party as we might be, so please now put your name on the list (and pay the £30 deposit!) whenever you are next in church.

Please find attached the second leaflet in our current parish stewardship campaign, hard copies of which were distributed last Sunday. If we possess a record of your postal address, you should also this week have received a stewardship pack to your home address: spare copies of these packs will be available in church this weekend. This Sunday, we will conclude our series of stewardship homilies.

Likewise included with this mailing is an invitation to join the congregation of St Alphage, Burnt Oak for choral Solemn Evensong and Te Deum for the Solemnity of the Annunciation, on Saturday 25 March.

With my prayers for a fruitful encounter with Christ, our living water,

Fr Richard