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Beneficial News for April (80)

Please click on the following link for Ben News No.80 Apr-May 2016

Thy Kingdom Come

Please see the video inviting people to take part in the Thy Kingdom Come prayer initiative for Pentecost.


Please Click to see the Video Clip



Rev Nick Williams       The Vicarage,   2 The Grange,     East Malling                01732 843282

Brothers and sisters in Christ, arriving in a new benefice, especially one as different from my old benefice as this one is, always gives rise to what the Chinese would doubtless term interesting times. There are uncertainties and much tip-toeing around on all sides as we all get used to working with each other in the service of the gospel of Christ     . That being said, it’s a privilege to come to you as your new Vicar and a humbling experience to be called to minister in a benefice that has so many capable people who have worked hard demonstrating their skills and talents looking after the benefice for the year or so you have been in interregnum. It’s a privilege as well to take over from someone like Fr Jim who accompanied you on your journey of faith for so many years and left the benefice in such good condition and Fr Derek who has been ‘minding the shop’ together with all the other retired clergy during the interregnum. Having looked at the lists of people who have roles in the three parishes I am acutely aware of how many people there must be to thank, far too many to name individually. So please take this short message as a ‘thank you’ to all of you, with a particular and personal ‘thank you’ to all of those who have worked tirelessly in their spare time re-decorating the Vicarage. I can assure you that Mrs Williams will make good her promise to bring you cake at the very earliest opportunity!

I’m sure however that there are many of you wondering how things will change. It is after all the habit of new Vicars to change things and whilst Fr Jim and I might have been members of your long line of vicars who were police officers I’m sure that we will both have our own unique and perhaps ‘individual’ ways of doing things. Well, let me provide those of you for whom this is a worry with a small amount of reassurance, I would really like to get to know you, the benefice and the wider parishes before even thinking of changing anything. I hope you will see me out and about in the benefice and will feel confident enough to come and talk to me about your hopes, aspirations and even the little things that niggle all of us. I don’t have a monopoly on good ideas and I’m willing to ‘borrow with pride’ from each and every one of you, so come and talk or even come and dream!

It is however only fair to warn you that I do have an agenda. That agenda is to spread the gospel of Jesus Christ to as many people as we possibly can. Everything that we do is subordinate to that one simple calling and it should be the lamp that lights the path to the decisions we make. There will be ‘interesting times’ ahead for all of us but together I am certain we can do great things in the service of Christ, and I look forward to accompanying each of you on our journey together into the future.

Yours in Christ

Rev Nick Williams







Twelfth Night Quiz 2015 Answers

Thank you to all who took part in our latest quiz which raised £110 for church funds.  The winner with 48 points was Clara Wilson-Green, the runners up with 47 points were the Scarlin family

The Church of St John The Baptist  12th  Night  Quiz  2015        Questions and Answers

This year we feature Famous People.   (Dead, Alive and Fictitious)


1    Who celebrated over 63 years as Monarch, in 2015?       Her Majesty, Queen Elizabeth

2   Who left his boots at Walmer Castle?                               Wellington

3   Jacob’s twin?                                                          Esau

4   Baptist preacher and Bible salesman, whose name today inspires thoughts of       “Sun, Sea and Sand” ?                                                                                 Thomas Cook

5   Which leader of the Peasants’ Revolt has a road named after him, in Maidstone?    Wat Tyler

6   In 1605, he was fired up to be a Bright Spark?                  Guy Fawkes

7   Musical siblings whose name links them to Joseph, husband of Mary?           The Carpenters

8   Who sang to President John F. Kennedy, on his birthday ?                             Marilyn Monroe

9   Which Singer & Performer celebrates this year with  “ 75 at 75” ?                 Sir Cliff Richard

10   Architect immortalised in song by Simon & Garfunkel?                              Frank Lloyd Wright

11   Which Goodie became a well-known Twitcher?                                             Bill Oddie

12   Who reputedly drove out all the snakes from Ireland?                                 St Patrick

13   50’s Singer……Cider Maker from an Italian Lake?                                     Perry Como

14   Who was the first Girl Guide?                                                                    Agnes Baden Powell

15   Fictitious spy, with adhesive qualities?                                                       James Bond

16   She sounds like she could rustle up some swans in sequins…?                   Darcey Bussell

17   Classical violinist with another – unexpectedly jazzy – string to his bow?  Yehudi Menuhin

18   Who was Jerry Mouse’s dancing partner in a 1945 film about two sailors on leave in Hollywood?                                                                                                           Gene Kelly

19   Who took A Long Walk To Freedom?                                                         Nelson Mandela

20   Former Genesis drummer who drove over lemons to literary fame ?           Chris Stewart

21   We can bank on this Canadian to keep our interest going…?                       Mark Carney

22   Who was the inventor of the Televisor and the Noctovisor?                        John Logie Baird

23   Who said   “We make a living by what we get; we make a life by what we give”?                          Sir Winston  Churchill

24   Prolific writer of letters, to the Ephesians, Philippians and many others..?      St Paul

25   Vogue photographer and subsequently pig farmer, as famous for his sausages as for his photographic art…?                                                                                                      Norman Parkinson

26   Slave trade abolitionist, with links to our Benefice?                                     William Wilberforce

27   American songwriter who had 3 Oscars, 4 wives and 6 Grammy Awards..?  Burt Bacharach

28   Which railway enthusiast refers to himself as a   “Former Future Prime Minister”?          Michael Portillo

29   In the painting by David Hockney, who are Percy’s companions?                 Mr & Mrs Clark

30   In August 1963, who had a dream?                                                               Martin Luther King

31   Which war-time Band Leader gave dance lessons on the radio?                  Victor Sylvester

32   Who is Alexander Armstrong’s  pointless friend?                                          Richard Osmon

33   Which Kent artist has his studio   ‘up the garden path’?                               Graham Clarke

34   Which comedian and raconteur invariably ended his TV shows with the words               “Goodnight, and may your God go with you” ?                                            Dave Allen

35   Author and presenter, who in 2014, celebrated 50 years in a different career to either of those…?                                                                                                      Alan Titchmarsh

36   The Great-Great-Grandfather of this American President has a memorial in All Saints Church, Maidstone..?                                                                                                                George Washington

37   Of whom was it said   “He’s mad, bad, and dangerous to know”?           Lord Byron

38   Potty man from Peru, did go on to be doubly famous…?                         Michael Bentine

39   Think of a city in Italy, the bird which sang in Berkeley Square, and selfless devotion to her patients, and who comes to mind?                                                                      Florence Nightingale

40   He started out as a fish porter in Billingsgate Market – but not a lot of people know that !

Sir Michael Caine

41   Builder Extraordinaire, he didn’t take single passengers..?                                 Noah

42   Who was the most famous recipient of the Maidstone Medal, in 1897?            Edith Cavell

43   Which television presenter shares his programme with his dog, Nigel?             Monty Don

44   He studied Law in London, and went on to be the prime mover towards India’s Independence; what is the meaning of the name he adopted as his first name?                “Great Soul”  (Mahatma)

45   Author who became famous for stories about a bear belonging to his young son…? A.A. Milne

46   Which American film star developed his own pasta sauces, and donated the whole of the profits to charity?                                                                                                                          Paul Newman

47   Local Boy Makes Good …..writer, art critic, painter and philosopher, born in Maidstone in 1778..?                                                                                                                William Hazlitt

48   Which famous pianist had the first names Wlaziv Valentino?                            Liberace

49   Immortalised by such diverse figures as Thomas Malory, Mary Stewart and Walt Disney, who was   “The Once And Future King”?                                                                 King Arthur

50   12th century Chancellor and Archbishop who preached under a yew tree in the churchyard at Capel, in Kent..?                                                                          Thomas Becket – accept ‘a Becket’





Priestly Ponderings Farewell


Now is the time to say “Goodbye”.  My retirement begins in early October following my final service at East Malling on the 11th October at 10am.  Of course, you are most welcome to join my wife and I for that occasion so that we can say goodbye to as many of you as possible

It is a little short of 14 years that I have been your Vicar here in Wateringbury and I just can’t believe how quickly that time has passed by. I arrived in the January of 2002 and was immediately made welcome by the community and I thank you all for that.  I am so aware of how fortunate I have been to be so intimately involved with the community, particularly through Baptisms, Weddings and Funerals (and you can imagine how many of those I have conducted over these years!).  I have always viewed my role as one of being the servant to others and this has always been a privilege and a joy.  I have taken the community very seriously and enjoyed a strong relationship with the many groups, organisations and institutions which form a strong community here in Wateringbury  (This especially includes our School, uniformed groups and local businesses). I have found the community have always been supportive of the Church too.  For all of this I offer you a most sincere thank you.

Moving on into retirement will be interesting, challenging and exciting.  I have many hobbies and interests that I am looking forward to pursuing and so I shan’t be bored.  I shall be standing to one side and allowing my successor an opportunity to establish themselves and I respect this protocol.  This, of course, is difficult for my wife and I because we have established many friendships and acquaintances but we understand how important it is.  However, we shall take away many very happy memories of our time with you all, it has been such a joy for us both.

Wateringbury has been a most wonderful place to serve and to be a part of and work in.  There is something so very special about it which includes its diversity, friendliness and joy.  I find the people here genuine and sincere and I have only ever experienced much support, respect and love.  You are all so fortunate to be a part of this most fantastic community.  Take good care of it and value it.  It’s worth looking after.

Jean and I thank you all for the past 14 years and pray that God will Bless you all for the future. 

Rev Jim

October 2015 Beneficial News

Please click HERE for October’s Beneficial News Letter

Sermon for 6th September

Healing Mark 7:24

Jesus wants to get away from it all but his bolt hole is discovered by a woman whose daughter he cures. He goes elsewhere and cures a deaf and dumb man. Everyone’s amazed and the more he says ‘don’t tell anyone’ the more they do.

An apt summary of today’s gospel? Need any more be said? (And I’m not expecting the answer ‘No’ !)

A parody in what I’ve just said of the way Mark writes his gospel. It’s crisp; it’s punchy; it focusses on action: it includes 17 miracles and has few parables and direct teachings. So when Mark plugs in some details in his narrative it pays to look at them as we’ll see.

Last week’s gospel reading, focussed on the opening verses of Chapter 7 describing Jesus’ row with the Pharisees over the question of cleanness and uncleanness. A whole ritual had been established for washing up to the elbows after touching cups and vessels which might have been contaminated by contact with Gentiles. Jesus and the disciples stand accused of breaching these man made rules and tradition.

It’s a tense time. Jesus is preached out, prayed out and peopled out. He just wants to ‘get away from it all’; to have some ‘quality time’ on his own or whatever the current idiom is.

But no sooner does he find a ‘bolt hole’ than his cover is somehow blown. And there’s a woman knocking at the door asking him to do a job. (Know the feeling chaps?) And here’s where the details first come into play: for Mark gives us a careful description of the woman.

She is from the area, a mother, a Syro Phoenecian – one of the Gentiles. She has come to see if Jesus will do something for her demon possessed daughter. She’s hoping that he might do something to heal her deepest sorrow. Perhaps she knows it’s a long shot. He’s a Jew and she’s a Gentile and between the two stand centuries of bad blood. She is intruding and he’s tired. Her biggest fear is that he’ll tell her to go away or be unable or unwilling to do anything. And he does indeed give a troubling response to her request: (v27) “ First let the children eat all they want , he tells her, “for it is not right to take the children’s bread and toss it to their dogs”.

The detail in focus here is “dogs”. We all know that the word can be used in a pejorative sense: we talk about ‘things going to the dogs’ During Chairman Mao’s Cultural Revolution in China it was used as a term of abuse for Westerners – they were called ‘running dogs of imperialism’. And that abusive usage of the word ‘dog’ would no doubt have been common amongst the Jews in talking about the Gentiles.


But the precise word which Jesus uses is less harsh than it might initially sound. In the Greek text of the gospel the word used refers to household dogs -domestic pets or puppies. The word ‘children’ in this gospel passage Jesus uses as a simile for the Jewish people.

The woman must wonder for a moment precisely what Jesus’ response could mean. Does he mean that for now, he could only help his own – the Jews?

She concedes that what he says is right (v28) and is inspired with the courage and wit to say that ‘even the puppies under the table eat the children’s crumbs’. Jesus greatly appreciates her answer: not because it was a clever one but by the faith bound up in the woman’s response. Her answer says I need you. I know that by just a crumb of your power my daughter will be healed.

And Jesus responds to her faith regardless of her being a Gentile and once again challenges the established order of things: (v29) ‘for such a reply you may go: the demon has left your daughter’.

Shades of another healing story when Jesus again responded to a Gentile’s plea and healed the Roman Centurion’s servant. On that occasion he said (7:9) ‘I have not found such great faith even in Israel’.

In the second healing story Jesus has moved to a different area where some people bring to him a man who was deaf and could hardly talk and challenge him to lay his hands on him and heal him. Is the crowd looking fo some kind of show at the expense of this deaf person? Jesus takes him aside and heals him in a way that stands in sharp contrast to the approach in the previous story. He begins by putting his fingers into the man’s ears. He then spits (presumably onto his fingers) and touches the man’s tongue. Jesus seems to be making contact symbolically or ritually with the defective parts of the man’s body.

Why in this instance Jesus touches and spits when at other times he simply speaks a healing word is unclear. What is made clear and again we return to the detail in the text, is the source of Jesus’ healing power. He acknowledges this by looking up to heaven, symbolically the location of God, and groaning or sighing.

Jesus’ efforts, albeit different this time , result in an immediate healing. The man hears perfectly and now speaks clearly.

Jesus’ injunction to them not to tell is a bit of an enigma: for earlier (Ch5) in the gospel after he has healed a demon possessed man who tries to become one of is followers, he says to him (v19) ‘ Go home to your family and tell them how much your Lord has done for you’ and that’s exactly what he did in the surrounding towns as well. ‘And all the people were amazed’ as it says at the end of that story too.


As well they might be for by these healing miracles Jesus was transforming the old order of things and bringing in the new order of God’s Kingdom. Just as foretold by the prophet Isaiah when he said of the coming Messiah: (35:5-6) ‘ then will the eyes of the blind be opened and the ears of the deaf unstopped. Then will the lame leap like a deer and the mute tongue shout for joy’. Compassion and healing available to all regardless of who they were.


Which leads us to consider: is that transforming power still at work – does God heal today? To which the answer must be an unequivocal ‘Yes’. Much as Jesus did not have a sole way of healing, so there are different approaches today: prayer, the ‘laying on’ of hands, the Oil of the Sick. The rest of the morning could profitably be spent on this, but I’ll make just a couple of comments.

Should people today expect a miracle or be open to that possibility? God does sometimes respond to prayers for healing by working a miracle. And yet there have always been those with strong faith and beset by illness who were not healed. My friend’s wife, very much a person of the charismatic church, suffered the ordeal of Multiple sclerosis before dying but remained rock steady in her faith to the end, even publishing a little booklet of her thoughts and prayers.

In some way, even when God does not work a miracle of physical healing, Jesus always heals his children when they come to him. Sometimes he brings them into a closer and deeper relationship with him, giving contentment and peace even in the face of death. Even when he allows them to die, they are not beyond his healing power.

Death ushers them in to the great and final healing of those who go to be with Christ, where they find that peace which the world cannot give.

We can take comfort as did the Syro Phoenecian woman and the deaf and dumb man that we too can bring our sorrows and pain to Jesus. We can be confident that when his children ask, he never turns them away at the door: never fails to give his children the bread of his healing power. Amen


Sermon for 9th August 2015

Trinity 10

Before I continue with the sermon this morning I am going to ask you to do something a little different. I want you to listen to the reading not with a heart of faith but with a sceptical mind. If it helps, imagine that you do not know that Jesus is anything else but a teacher. You are a first century person who has just been introduced to him. [Read John 6:35, 41-51]

Pretty incredible isn’t it? For someone to make such claims. What if, later today, you were introduced to someone and that someone said, “Hi, I am the bread that has came down from heaven.” You would look at your friend who just introduced you to this person and you would say, “I’m sorry, what did he just say?” Anyone who seriously made such claims would easily be labeled a nutter!

But, of course, in other areas of life we find it all the time. The first person who I can clearly recall laying such claim to being a great “I am” was Cassius Clay/ Mohamed Ali. Of course, in his case he too turned out to be the Greatest, the Greatest Boxer, perhaps in our life time. But others commonly lay claim to being the greatest, “I am this and I am the other”, I’m the greatest footballer, or rugby player (we’ll leave Cricket out for the moment!), or if you watch X factor “I know I am the best singer, you’ve just got to believe in me!” and so it goes on. But we never accept these people’s credentials. But people to whom Jesus was addressing were being asked to do just that.

Jesus makes a very assertive “I am” statement in today’s Gospel, and does so no fewer than four times: “I am the bread of life.” Indeed, it’s one of many “I am” assertions he makes throughout the Gospel of John. In chapter 8 he says, “I am the light of the world,” and “I am from above.” In chapter 10: “I am the gate for the sheep,” and “I am the good shepherd.” In chapter 11: “I am the resurrection and the life.” In chapter 14: “I am the way, and the truth, and the life,” and in chapter 15: “I am the true vine.”

Each time he makes an “I am” statement, it is highly inflammatory for his listeners, and sometimes dangerous for himself. When he makes the assertion in chapter 8: “before Abraham was, I am”, they pick up stones to throw at him. In chapter 10, when he says: “I am in the Father,” they try to arrest him.

My examples of “I am” aren’t particularly good ones to be honest because what is actually happening here that Jesus in stating “I am.” He is making an outrageous statement because it goes right back to the Divine Name of God. In fact it goes all the way back to the book of Exodus, when from the burning bush God instructs Moses to lead the Israelites out of Egypt. At first Moses shrinks from the task. This great man and lawgiver is reduced to a gibbering idiot, feebly asking: “Who am I?” He protests that if he tells the Israelites he’s been sent by the God of their ancestors, they’d ask: “What is his name?” and he stammers, “what shall I say to them?” But God, cutting right through his prevarication, replies: “I AM WHO I AM… you say to the Israelites, ‘I AM has sent me to you.’”

No wonder the Jews were aghast to hear Jesus claiming “I am”. As far as they were concerned, if you felt able to assert “I am”, you were effectively claiming to be God. They just didn’t understand that Jesus was God.

And Jesus pushes it even further when he claims, not only to be the bread of life, but superior to the manna God sent Moses and their ancestors in the wilderness. Rather than merely providing physical nourishment from one day to the next, Jesus, the bread of life, will provide eternal sustenance.

Discovering your identity, your true identity, can often be a problem for people. If you’re a rebellious teenager, or you’ve ever been one, or the sibling or parent of one, you’ll know how agonising a young person’s search for identity can be. Nor is such confusion confined to teenagers The German theologian Dietrich Bonhoeffer also wrestled with identity. His poem “Who Am I?” was published a year after he was executed for plotting against Hitler. In it he draws out the bitter contrast between the confident, easy-going man other people see, and what he knows of himself: “restless and longing and sick”.

As far as Jesus’ listeners were concerned, to be human is to be humble enough to ask the question asked like Mohamed Ali, Hitler, Bonhoeffer and Moses: “Who am I?” and anything else was blasphemy. But Christians believe that, through the sacrifice of Christ upon the cross, all people have a way of asserting “I am”. Again, the key is to be found in John’s Gospel. In chapters 10 and 14 Jesus says, “I am in the Father and the Father is in me,” and also: “No one comes to the Father except through me.” Bonhoeffer acknowledges this in the last line of his poem, when he has a flash of inspiration in the midst of his dark thoughts: “Who am I? They mock me, these lonely questions of mine. Whoever I am, thou knowest, O God, I am thine.”

The German theologian tells a story of a hungry man passing a store with a sign in the window, “We Sell Bread.” He entered the store, put some money on the counter, and said, “I would like to buy some bread.” The women behind the counter replied, “We don’t sell bread.” “The sign in the window says that you do,” the hungry man said. The woman explained, “We make signs here like the one in the window that says ‘We Sell Bread.’” But, as the theologian concludes, a hungry man can’t eat signs. A hungry man needs the Bread of Life, as we all do.

Life sometimes fools us too. Bread isn’t always found where it seems to be. Like the crowds looking for something else or that man looking in the wrong store, we often miss the point when God offers us enduring life in Jesus as the Bread of Life.

Today we gather in this church to receive a taste of food that will help us remember who we are.  I mean the bread of life, our Father’s gift to us.  This is the food of God’s kingdom, and reminds us that when Jesus said “I am the Bread of Life” then he truly is.

Priestly Ponderings June 2015

Priestly Ponderings June 2015


 About 2.7 billion people, over a third of the worlds population, live on less than  U.S.$2 a day. It causes 21,000 child deaths per day. Over the last year, there has been an increased awareness of the plight of the poor and 2015 will be a particularly significant year for poverty. In May the Pope called on the United Nations to initiate a “worldwide ethical mobilization” that would address the plight of the poor. The Millennium Development Goals (agreed by the United Nations in 2000 and whose aim was to eradicate extreme poverty and hunger by 2015) are to be revisited and redefined in 2015.

 Although some people feel the UK economy is picking up, this isn’t true for many. The number of people using foodbanks continues to grow (One estimate reaches 1 million).The Bishop of Truro and Frank Field MP chaired the all party parliamentary group which produced the report ‘Feeding Britain’ calling upon the government to eliminate food poverty in Britain by 2020. ”Listen to God: Hear the Poor” was an initiative launched by the Archbishop of Canterbury and the Cardinal Archbishop of Westminster last April when the Archbishops were encouraging churches to join them in praying for the work of the Church helping those in need.

 Churches in our Diocese are encouraging us all to raise awareness of poverty by understanding the reasons and discovering how God blesses the poor. So important, however, is to explore how we might respond. So communities and parishes are encouraged to explore the theme in creative, innovative and eye-catching ways, involving local communities where possible. Already a number of folk in our church at Wateringbury have undertaken “Living Below the Line” challenge (living on £1 per day for 5 days) to enable them to experience the hardships of life in poverty. There has also been conferences where we have learned more about poverty and what can be done to tackle it. We also manage our own food bank scheme.

 Poverty is challenging and complex. Over the years, countless lives have been transformed when poverty is confronted.  The challenges may seem overwhelming, but we really can make a difference as we seek justice for the poor and food for the hungry towards our commitment to tackle the causes and effects of poverty in different parts of the world.

 I pray that Challenging Poverty will provide opportunities to make that difference.

Rev Jim Brown