Lent Lectures 2019

A series of addresses, with time for discussion and reflection.

Please click below to listen the first of a series of addresses, with time for discussion and reflection.


10th April – 19:30 pm. – Weston on the Green

Evil and Evolution   

Dr Bethany Sollereder

Postdoctoral Fellow in Science and Religion, University of Oxford














3rd April – 19:30 pm. – Weston on the Green

Miracles in a Scientific Age?   

The Rev’d Dr Laura Biron Scott

Curate, The Parish of Kidlington, Formerly Ass’t Professor of Philosophy, University of Virginia




27th March – 19:30 pm. – Weston on the Green

Who is my neighbour?  What science tells about animal sentience…. 

The Rev’d Jen Brown

Tutor for the Cuddesdon School of Theology and Ministry and Secretary of the Science & Religion







20th March – 19:30 pm. – Weston on the Green

Science and Religion

The Rev’d Dr Shaun Henson

University of Oxford




13th March – 19:30 pm. – Weston on the Green

Artificial Intelligence

The Right Rev’d Dr Steven Croft

Bishop of Oxford









Benefice Mothering Sunday 2019

On Sunday 31 March at 1600


for the whole benefice at Kirtlington Church.

Guest speaker:  The Rev’d April Beckerleg, Asst Curate at St. Edburg’s, Bicester.


Lent, Holy Week and Easter 2019 programme



From The Rev’d Gareth Miller – March 2019

Brian Wood

The Rev’d Gareth Miller

Dear friends

I don’t think I’d ever read a spy story or detective novel till the other week. Oh, I think some years ago I sat down with a John le Carré, but didn’t get much beyond page 30 (no doubt my fault rather than his).

But for my birthday a friend gave me London Rules by Mick Herron. I took it on my recent holiday and gobbled it up almost at one sitting. But then I was out of reading matter! Fortunately I went to a restaurant in Seville where they had a book exchange, and I swopped my book for Raven Black by Ann Cleeves (not of). That was also unputdownable, leaving me to spending the rest of my time away with back numbers of The Church Times!

Later today I have to prepare a sermon on St Mark’s Gospel, which I have been invited to deliver in another parish. I well remember my excitement when I first went up to Durham University and began to delve into the biblical texts in their original languages. We looked at Mark, the earliest and shortest Gospel, first. What was just as fascinating as the language was the way in which the texts had been put together, and comparing and contrasting them really was like unravelling a detective story or murder mystery. (My favourite birthday card this year was a picture of Jesus teaching the disciples and saying, “Now listen carefully, you guys. I don’t want to end up with four different versions of this!”)

But for me it was perhaps the beginning of curiosity, that really important skill that we all do well to acquire – searching for connections, looking for deeper meanings, immersing oneself in the subject, just as a detective does. It’s essential for relationships, and it’s absolutely essential for faith.

Last month we buried a very dear parishioner. Her family shared some of her sayings at her funeral. One of them was this: ‘If you don’t like someone, it means you need to get to know them better.’ I was brought up short by that, and find it both challenging and salutary.

If you don’t like God, or are not quite sure about him, it may be an idea to try to get to know him better. Mark’s Gospel, or one of the others, is a very good place to start. But faith is only nurtured in community. A book I’ve been reading is called ‘The World is a Wedding.’ The author says this:

‘The Christian tradition is not something to be understood from the outside. The knowledge of God can only grow in us if we are willing to enter into and participate in that community of love and knowledge, of faith and experience, which is called the Church…….not in slavish submission, but in respect and diffidence before the accumulated experience of the centuries, a willingness to let our eyes be opened to new and disturbing realities.’

Holy Week and Easter give us a chance to do just that.



From The Rev’d Mike White – March 2019

Mike White

Dear friends,

We all relish a love story and this one is no different.

It all begins with one emperor penguin jumping out of the water and doing a belly flop onto the ice. Then he rises on his little web feet and the voice of the narrator says, “Like most love stories it begins with an act of utter foolishness. Each year at about the same time, the emperor penguin will leave the comforts of his ocean home and embark on an incredible journey. Though he is a bird, he won’t fly. Though he lives in the ocean, he won’t swim. For most part, he’ll walk. But he won’t walk alone.”

Gradually the scene fills with hundreds of penguins waddling along on their little feet past immense ice formations under a crystal blue sky. The destination is always the same, but the path isn’t since the ice and land never stop shifting. New roadblocks will arise which seem to baffle them. But they never stop for long. Soon one of them will pick up the trail and the journey continues. That’s the introduction to the epic film ‘The March of the Penguins’. It’s the story of their journey of over 70 miles to mate and breed in the most unaccommodating of conditions.

Mark 1 verses 9-15 begins the tale of another and even more amazing love story and another journey, the march of Jesus, the journey of Lent, and the journey of faith. The story begins with Jesus’s baptism where he’s affirmed as God’s Son; it continues with his journey into the wilderness which is a time of preparation for His vocation to proclaim the good news of the Kingdom; here begins the journey that leads to the cross. Lent is a time when we’re called to reflect on our journey and to seek to walk more closely with Jesus. Whilst the destination is always the same, the path can be quite different for each and every one of us. The good news is we never make the journey alone.

Our Lent Lectures start in March {details will be in the ABC} which will lead us on our journey of faith and seek to go deeper. To follow Jesus we have to be prepared to journey with Him. In the same way that Jesus’s ministry began with His baptism so our journey of faith and of being a disciple of Christ begins with our baptism. Lent is a time when we draw aside, when we spend time alone with God, reflect on our journey so far and prepare ourselves for the future. Lent is a time when we face up to the temptations that life throws at us and learn to resist them in the light of Christ’s example.

Lent is a time when we are invited on a journey. Like the penguin’s march, it’s a journey of love that begins with an act of utter foolishness as St Paul says in 1 Corinthians:   ‘The message about the cross is foolishness to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God’.

If we want to be part of the most amazing love story of all time we must be prepared to make the journey of faith, to take up our cross and follow Christ. If we really want to get to the destination that Christ leads us and has promised us then like the emperor penguin we have to take that leap of faith. Each of us has to take steps not only to deepen our own faith so that our spiritual lives are enriched; we are also called to accompany one another on that journey.

Mike White

Chesterton Rectory
01869 572559

The Rev’d Brian Wood Farewell

Last Sunday 27th January it was Brian’s last service at Chesterton. The church was full of people and we had the opportunity to say goodbye to him and Erica.

Thank you to you both and we wish you all the best for future.



From The Rev’d Gareth Miller – February 2019

Brian Wood

The Rev’d Gareth Miller

Dear friends

I write this on the eve of the ‘meaningful vote’ in the House of Commons, and as the deadline for this letter is today I am in the tantalising position of not being able to reflect on the outcome. I gather it is even possible that the vote on the Prime Minister’s ‘deal’ may not take place at all if one of the amendments is approved.

How we discuss thing together as families, communities and nations is important. I am not convinced that the debate over our relationship with continental Europe has been conducted in a thoughtful and civilised way.

When the then Archbishop of Canterbury called the bishops of the Anglican Communion together for the 2008 Lambeth Conference he asked them to meet for discussion in indabas. He said this:

“We have given these the name indaba groups, groups where in traditional African culture people get together to sort out the problems that affect them all, where everyone has a voice and where there is an attempt to find a common mind or a common story that everyone is able to tell when they go away from it: ‘This is how we approached it. This is what we heard. This is where we arrived as we prayed and thought and talked together.’ “

Good relationships are characterised by a deep process of mutual listening and learning, like a dance – a two-way partnership with neither side dominating. Likewise, conversations need time and room to grow. It’s helpful to see every conversation as a potential learning experience. Very often we react far too quickly to what we hear. You make a point and I react. Responding, rather than reacting, has a different quality to it. It may only take a nanosecond longer, but the person who is responding has taken a moment to process what is being said and can reply from a more considered place. What is going on beneath the surface? What else do I need to know that might help me to understand why this person is thinking or behaving in this way? Can I learn anything from their body language? Do I need to ask for some clarification? Do I need to think about timing? Is what I am about to say helpful/necessary? Am I owning my own feelings? Am I aware of my own biases? I suppose what I am saying is ‘Listen to the music as well as the words.’

In the conversations about our nation’s future, I hope that, whatever the outcome (and we might know it by the time you read this!), we will try to listen to one another more attentively. It’s easy for people to feel left out, or patronised, or misunderstood when others assume a monopoly of truth or insight. This applies not only to nations, but to families and village communities as well.

Several people commented to me how hard they had found being together in large family groupings over Christmas. That is sometimes not only the hardest, but also the best place to practise some of these skills.


01869 350224

Christingle Kirtlington

Kirtlington Church – Sunday 2nd December 2018




Remembrance Sunday Sermon

Brian Wood

The Rev’d Gareth Miller

Have you ever thought about the coincidences that make you you? All those random connections of people meeting across the centuries that have culminated in you being you and me me. For example, if my father had not been a prisoner of war for four years I would never have existed and you would have a different rector standing in this pulpit. Why? Because when he came back from the war he found his wife with another man, leading to their divorce and his eventually meeting and marrying my mother.

I was born nearly twelve years after the end of the Second World War, but it was still very much the backdrop to my childhood, and there was constant reference to the war and the disruption and dislocation it had brought to our family. Moreover, there were still many people alive who could well recall the First War, including my own grandfather, who served in Egypt and received the DCM. And my mother worked for a time at The Star and Garter Home for disabled ex-servicemen and I remember as a boy going up there with her and meeting many of the men with no arms or legs, or neither. It’s now being turned into luxury flats.

We live in a very different era. There are fewer and fewer people alive today who even remember the second war.

Yet still we come. And in recent years the power of the poppy has gained fresh potency. In this centenary year there has been a host of special books, radio and television programmes and films to commemorate the ending of WW1. And I’ve been very moved this week to go into our village schools and to witness not only the care and thought that has gone into the commemoration, but also the interest it has aroused in the children.

Two things were central to those involved in the First World War. The first was a bitter awareness of the gulf between what was said at home and what was experienced in the trenches. Those returning from the trenches found themselves almost incapable of talking about what they had witnessed, partly because the language used by politicians and the press, from the comparative comfort of London, the language of chivalry and knightly deeds, bore so little resemblance to what was actually happening. The language that was so often used presupposed that glory in war was a wonderful, straightforward, righteous affair. The reality was unspeakably grim. The glory, if indeed there was any, was a lot more prosaic.

The second thing was that the nature of war had changed. Not only was it the first war fought with modern technology. It was also a war whose effects reached into almost every household in the land. And it was these two realisations which perhaps led at least some leaders in the Second WW to speak more soberly. Archbishop William Temple, for example, said “We recognise that this is all to do with the sin in which we’re all implicated, so that the best thing we can do is still a bad thing.” “War itself,” he said, “never produces a positive good, though it can restrain worse evils.” 1

I suspect that if we were to take a poll in church today we would find, as in the population at large, divergent views, sincerely held, on matters of war and peace and defence. There is, for example, a very honourable tradition of Quakerism and pacifism within the Christian community. Equally there are very deeply committed Christians in the armed forces, like General, now Lord, Dannatt. The issues, like most issues that affect us as a society, are deeply complex.

The rise of fundamentalism and populism that we are witnessing should be a warning to us all. Throughout history wars have been caused very largely by the megalomaniac tendencies of demagogic rulers, from Nebuchadnezzar and Herod in the Bible through to the dictators of the twentieth century, Mussolini, Stalin, Hitler, Saddam Hussein, and, although perhaps not in the same league, Kim Jung Un, Putin, (Trump?) – leaders with a nationalistic agenda, often with territorial ambitions, often scapegoating minorities; vain men with over-sized egos, inflicting their narcissistic personality disorders on an often supine populace.

In OT times the people of Israel were ruled over for a period by judges. It wasn’t exactly egalitarian or what we would call democratic, but it was closer to democracy than an absolutist monarchical regime. But the people became restless and cried out, as they so often do when times are tough, for a strong leader. They instituted the monarchy, with mixed results.

The world today is hugely more complex than it was then, but just as susceptible to the attractiveness of simplistic solutions. After both the world wars there was a longing for peace and a recognition that something needed to be done to try to prevent war on that scale from happening again. After the First War the League of Nations was set up. But its effectiveness was limited by the fact that the US never officially joined, the USSR only belatedly, and Spain, Italy, Germany all withdrew in the 1930s. Its successor, the UN, set up after the Second WW, is still with us, mercifully. It has its flaws, but like the EU and other similar organisations, the flaws are only partly institutional. They exist also because of the reluctance of member states thoroughly to commit philosophically, existentially and financially.

If this place is to have any real significance, if Christian faith (or indeed any faith) is in any sense real to us, we can never glibly endorse the status quo nor the maxims and values of contemporary society, nor the inevitability of conflict. People of faith are those who ask difficult questions, of themselves and others. They are those who seek to bring the gospel values of integrity, justice, peace-mongering, fair-dealing into all the corners of their lives. They are those who stand up against racism, sexism, and jingoism. They are those who challenge our institutions and our systems whenever they seem to collude with oppression and corruption.

Each year we come to a service like this and pray for and pledge ourselves to work for peace. But unless we act on those pledges they remain ineffectual platitudes. I find that I cannot be a Christian with any real integrity unless I do something, however small, to build a juster, fairer, more equal world. It might mean joining a political party, it might mean signing a petition, it might mean supporting a charity. But doing nothing in the face of the world’s pain cannot be an option.

To me the world feels as if it’s going the wrong way. The grossly indecent accumulation of wealth by the few has got to be ethically wrong and will lead inevitably to increasing tension in society and potentially to war. The proliferation of arms, the degradation of the environment, the displacement of peoples – none of these has any coherence with the gospel message. We need to invest far more fully, individually and collectively, in bodies that are dedicated to the reduction of tensions and the fostering of interdependence between nations and communities.

It is not the Church’s task to tell people how to vote, or even what to think or do. It is the Church’s task to provide a place, a context, in which we work out for ourselves our own response to the invitation of Jesus to be peacemakers in whatever situation we find ourselves.

I spoke at the beginning about the disparity between how the first war was marketed at home and how it was experienced in the trenches. The prophet Micah also noticed a disparity between what was proclaimed and what was practised and he challenged the people of Israel with these words:

All the peoples walk each in the name of its god,
but we will walk in the name of the Lord our God.2

Throughout history the people have been tempted to follow false gods. Throughout history the prophets have sought to draw them back. God grant us the wisdom to listen to the prophets of our own day, the prophets of peace, the prophets of reconciliation, and lead us away from the prophets of narcissism, of hedonism and all the others isms that have wrought such havoc in our world.

In the second lesson, Paul wrote to the Colossians about the graces that are needed for right living. He finishes: And above all these put on love, which binds everything together in perfect harmony.3

God grant us the grace to listen to that word, and, as we listen, to hear.


1  Letter to a friend, November 1939.
2  Micah 4.5
3  Colossians 3.14

Away Day

Nearly 30 members of our Parochial Church Councils attended an Away Day at Bruern Abbey School in October to think and pray about the future of the benefice.

We had a really good conversation, helped by excellent input by Bob Wilkes, cake by Jo Cropp and lunch by Peter Driver.

Thanks to all involved.