Leatherhead Parish Church with All Saints

Rev Juliette Hulme, formerly Assistant Priest of this Parish

Sep 2001 - How does God call us?
Sep 2001 -
Goodbye to Juliette
Oct 2001 -
Thank you from Juliette
Nov 2001 -
message from Juliette in New Caledonia
Jan 2002 -
message from Juliette in New Zealand
website links
June 2002 - Rev Captain Hulme pays us a visit
Nov 2002
Letter from Germany
Feb 2004
Christmas in Iraq: Op Telic
Mar 2004
More from Iraq
Aug 2004
Back from Iraq
Nov 2005
Studying
Jun 2006 -
Family Communion sermon, photos
Aug 2006 -
Chaplain to Wells Cathedral School
Mar 2007 -
Interview on BBC Woman's Hour
Feb 2011 -
Message

How does God call us?
Rev Juliette Hulme, Assistant Priest

September 2001 Parish Magazine

If someone had said to me seven years ago, as I was about to be ordained, that I would in time become an Army Chaplain I would have looked at them with open mouthed disbelief. "But I am not a bit military or pro war and, surely, it's only men who are Army Chaplains" I'd have said. "After all, there aren't many women soldiers."

Six years later, as I was exploring what to do next as a priest and not wanting to be a vicar (too many committees) I was visiting St Bede's School in Redhill, thinking about school chaplaincy and talking to the chaplain there, Revd John Scott. I've known him a long time as he's also vicar of St. Philip's, Reigate, which was my sending church when I became an ordinand.

John said, "Have you thought about Army Chaplaincy - the British Army want some women chaplains." John is a Territorial Army Chaplain himself, and told me something about it. I found out that they don't want the chaplains to be military, but they are looking for people who are caring, experienced and adventurous. That you are not there to oil the wheels of war but support those caught up in it.

I then got invited up to Wellington Barracks and met the Chaplain to the Household Division and lots of officers and soldiers who were all charming. And didn't they look smart in their uniforms! They were all highly motivated and very interesting to talk to. I learnt something first hand about the Army's peace-keeping role in Bosnia. I had a long talk with the Senior Chaplain about what I'd done so far in my life, including my VSO time in Indonesia and working at the Iona Community, all my teaching before ordination and my work as a priest in Crayford and Leatherhead. He seemed to think I was just what they might be looking for.

I also visited Aldershot on a grey and miserable day in May. Aldershot was not the prettiest place I'd ever been to, especially in the pouring rain, and I can"t say my heart soared, but once again the people I met were great. They were all men, though; not a woman in sight, and I had rather hoped to meet at least one woman soldier! At this point I was still unsure if God was definitely calling me to Army Chaplaincy and I wanted to be clearer. I had felt restless for a while in Parish ministry and had the feeling that there was something more out there that God was calling me on to, but it was hard to discern what!

But that feeling of yearning for something more happens to all of us and is worth taking note of. God calls and challenges each one of us to move outward and onward. It may be in a new direction in our work or it may be a new role in our church or community life, or discovering new blessings within our marriage, or discovering new interests and joys in our retirement. One thing we do know is God does not call us to stagnate. I think the other misunderstanding about God calling us is that we fear if we really open ourselves to God we might be called to do something really drastic, like being a missionary or a nun or something.

But God does not call us to do things we are not good at or have no desire for. God is much more likely to call us to use the gifts we already have and develop them. So if we are a great cook and hostess then God will call us to use those gifts to minister to others. If we love travelling and speak other languages God may call us into work which uses these gifts. If we are musical, God will call us to share that skill with others. God does not call us to something that is unattractive to us or impossible for us to achieve.


The Royal Army Chaplains Department

So my next Army visit was to the Army Training Regiment at Pirbright. I was going to watch the chaplain there teach the trainee soldiers in "Spiritual and Moral Development" sessions. I arrived in the vicinity in good time and found a beautiful little church open, down a country lane in the village of Pirbright. There was no-one in there and I went in and prayed with all my heart that God would make it clear if I was to apply for Army Chaplaincy.

I don't think I have ever had an answer to prayer so quickly! Almost as soon as I got there I was met by a delightful woman called Debbie who turned out to be the verger. She also worked for SASRA, which is a missionary organisation to the forces. She told me how tough the training was for the soldiers and how often they needed someone to talk to and to comfort and encourage them and how they really needed more chaplains. After lunch I met a woman officer who was a troop commander, and was probably only about 28! She was highly motivated, loved being in the Army and training the young soldiers, and was very direct with me, telling me I should apply and she thought there was a great need for women chaplains.

The chaplain then introduced me to a bunch of young women soldiers, some of whom were from the Commonwealth countries. I was given a chance to talk to them alone and ask them lots of questions. They asked me quite a few, too, about why I'd become a priest. Then, in case I hadn't had enough signs from God, a woman soldier from the Caribbean got up and said, "I want to congratulate you for being one of the first woman priests and I hope you will come and be a chaplain in the British Army." I then got a round of applause. All this rather took me by surprise and bowled me over, but I was left in no doubt whatsoever that God was calling me to Army Chaplaincy! Since then I have been interviewed and offered a Short Service Commission to start in February 2002.

After seven years in full-time ministry I have decided to take some space between my post here in Leatherhead and starting in the Army. I shall take the opportunity of being single with no dependants and sail on a Tall Ship, something I have always longed to do. When I am on the water, I come home deep inside and feel a great sense of peace. I shall be learning how to sail this wonderful boat (the Soren Larsen, star of The Onedin Line) in the South Pacific, round the Vanuatu Islands to New Caledonia and then on to New Zealand. I shall, also be visiting a Maori Christian Community and staying with two very dear friends, one in Auckland and another in Sydney.

However although I am very excited about my new adventures I shall also be very sad to leave Leatherhead. There are some lovely people here who have been a great support to me in my ministry here. It has been a new venture for most of you, having a woman priest in leadership here, and I know for some of you that has been difficult. But many of you have been very affirming and appreciative of the particular gifts a woman priest can bring and I would like to thank you for that.

It turns out that I am also going to be paving the way for women chaplains in the British Army, as up to now they haven't had any! I will appreciate your prayers for these new steps I am taking in my life and I shall continue to keep you in my prayers as I sail across the seas.

I shall end with words for each one of us from the hymn by Cecil Alexander:

Jesus calls us: o'er the tumult
of our life's wild restless sea
day by day his sweet voice soundeth,
saying, "Christian, follow me"

May God bless you, with love
Juliette

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Juliette Hulme - September 2001 magazine

We say goodbye to Juliette Hulme on September 9th as she sets off to help sail a 'Tall Ship' to New Zealand en route to becoming an Army Chaplain. There will be a special service at 10.30am followed by presentation and Bring and Share Lunch.

Juliette has made a significant contribution to church life through her work with children both in church and at church schools; her interest in spirituality, especially from Iona, her love of drama as well as her regular ministry on Sundays and thorughout the week We wish her every success in the years to come and thank her warmly for all she has given to the life of this parish.

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Thank You from Juliette - October 2001 magazine

Thank you all so much for the beautiful travelling Communion set in its very feminine and practical smart leather mini-briefcase. It contains, for those who did not see it, all one might ever need, a tiny paten and chalice, a pyx to hold the hosts, a cross and candlesticks, a spoon for the very sick, and a cruet set for the water and wine. All are beautifully crafted and silver-plated. It is quite exquisite. Helena had skilfully even made a small altar cloth and purificators from the SeeAbility altar cloth incorporating the original embroidered crosses. I am so well equipped; it is a very special present to have received. I shall think of you all whenever I use it. With the constant moving around and unpredictability of the Army it will be very useful.

Thank you, too, for the cheque. It will pay for some waterproof binoculars for my Tall Ship sailing trip. I hope to spot whales, dolphins and albatross! By the time you read this I shall be sailing in the Pacific; if anyone is interested in finding out about the voyage and the ship there is a website as shown below.

Thank you also to everyone who by being there made my Farewell and our Patronal Service very special. Revd Joanna Percival preached a stirring and thought-provoking sermon. The choir directed by Chris Slater sang beautifully and the Ave Maria nearly reduced me to tears as I was giving communion. Thank you to Hedley for his moving Song for Mary and his sensitive prayers, and to Dave Oliver for playing my favourite hymns with gusto. Thank you to Jane Haslam for organising such a delicious lunch and to all of you who brought tasty dishes. Last but not least, thank you to David for being there and for being a kind, wise, encouraging colleague.

I shall miss you all and at this time of terrible world tragedy it feels hard to leave this friendly community and my family nearby to travel to the other side of the world. I think we all feel we want to be near those to whom we are closest. However, I am sure when I set eyes on the Tall Ship Soren Larsen I shall be ready to step aboard to see what new adventures lie ahead.

May God bless you and keep you, may God shine His face upon you, and until we meet again, may God hold you in the palm of His hand.

With my love and prayers
Juliette

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message from Juliette - November 2001 magazine

Dear David and Everyone,
I am in a cyber cafe in Noumea, New Caledonia: have sent some cards but can now mail. Sailing has been good, very exciting, hard at first as many were seasick but only for a day.

Great people on the crew all ages and some lovely young men from Aus and NZ, good teachers for the sailing, but lots to learn very complicated with ropes etc. and so many sails. I think I'll only just learn a bit of it in the time I have. I've been up the rigging, very high and scary but I was well taught and wore safety harness. Views were fantastic so high.

Shared a cabin with 2 others, very cramped, me on top bunk. Food has been so yummy on board and so much that I'm getting fatter not thinner but my muscles are developing with all the rope work, also great snorkelling, lots of lovely islands with smiling children, palm trees and white beaches. Weather mainly hot but one storm. Good atmosphere on boat, lots of hard work, laughs and no sulks or rows thank goodness.

Good fancy dress on last night I wore a long black wig and went as Cruella from 1001 Dalmatians. Dancing on deck, boat at anchor under moonlight, great fun. We are now on land for a few days and hope to do a rainforest tour and a kayak trip up river.

I think of you and miss our communion services.
Lots of love. Juliette xxxx


Letter from Juliette - January 2002 magazine


I thought you'd like this picture - not my new boyfriend but a young Maori warrior who was dancing the famous HAKA war dance (made fanous by the All Blacks rugby team). I was at a Maori evening with my friend Clare who persuaded me to have my photograph taken with him.

It was a great evening, with HANGI (traditional seafood, chicken, sweet potatoes and fish cooked on hot stones in the ground) followed by lots of traditional Maori dancing.

Earlier, we had visited the hot springs and geysers gushing out of the ground in the volcanic town of Rotorua. There was boiling hot mud bubbling away and the geysers shot 30 or more feet high. I've never seen anything quite like it.

The next day we visited a spa where we had wonderful body treatments, being covered in special mud, wrapped in foil, scalp massaged then rinsed off - our skin was so smooth after.

I am now in Christchurch, in the South Island, on a short Advent retreat in a convent. Christchurch is the most English of the cities. I hope to see more of the South Island next week.

The rest of my sailing trip went very well. Sometimes there was little wind in the Pacific and we could only sail gently; once lots of us swam alongside the ship where the sea was miles deep with no land in sight; what an experience. Towards New Zealand the wind got up and sometimes we sailed in Force 7 or 8 winds, really quite rough, with spray coming all over the deck, but great fun. The Bay of Islands in the north of NZ was very beautiful and so uninhabited; lots of unspoilt coves. New Zealand is very spacious and green, lots of land for everyone - total population less than London! People are so friendly; all the bus drivers and shopkeepers make conversation, even in the cities. It is a lovely country, I am so impressed.

We have had quite a bit of rain. It is spring here, with blossom out and evenings light until nine o'clock. I made many new friends on the ship and I can pop in to see them as the ship is in harbour, being painted and varnished. It is good to see my old friend Clare from teaching days. I send you all my love.
God bless. Juliette.

from the June 2002 magazine:

Rev Captain Juliette Hulme paid us a visit before leaving for Germany where she will be chaplain to a Signals unit.


From Juliette Hulme - Letter from Germany
December 2002 magazine

Hello and Happy Christmas to you all from Germany. I have settled down well at an Army Base near the Dutch border. I do miss you all still and worshipping with you. Thank you all for your prayers. They have really helped. I have just taken two big military Remembrance Services.

The one today was at Rheinberg Military Cemetery, where there are over 3000 graves of servicemen from Britain and the Commonwealth who died in the 2nd World War. We went as a regiment and it was a very moving setting in which to lead the service. Yesterday I led another Remembrance Service in Sennelager, where many soldiers are on exercise, in another part of Germany. This was a multi-national service with over 700 soldiers in a huge military square with great big tanks! I was up staying with the soldiers on exercise as they were practising their skills, mainly in communications, as it was 1 Signal Brigade.
I had my own tent, a camp bed, a kerosene stove and even some light, connected to the Army Landrover's battery. Much more comfortable than my Sandhurst experience of Field Exercise. In the next tent were the RSM and a corporal who kept an eye on me and made sure I wore my helmet and webbing at the right times. One night it rained solidly and my tent roof leaked. I got water in my boots and on my clothes. That taught me not to leave my clothes out! There was a lot of mud everywhere and it was cold, yet it was good fun, everyone pulling together - I went round visiting and doling out sweets to all the soldiers as they were laying cables or receiving signals. I got lots of cups of tea made for me and found a few warm tents to thaw out on my rounds.

I am living on a huge base about 10 miles in perimeter, with a house on the Officers' patch. There are lots of trees everywhere; it used to be all RAF before the Army took it over. I am 5 mins walk from the Officer's mess, so I eat there with the other single officers quite often.

I'm responsible for two churches, St Nicholas and St Andrew on the base and St Thomas in an Army village about 12 miles away. At the moment we only have a service, at St Thomas once a month, but every week at the church on the base. The congregation is growing slowly and for an Army church it is a reasonable size, but my vision is for many more to come. Please pray for growth. I am hoping to run an Alpha course for the soldiers in the New Year also.

There are quite a few pastoral needs, as you can imagine, with soldiers; some are very young, only 18 or 19 and never been out of the UK and get homesick, or lovesick, or get into trouble or "don't want to be in the Army any more" So I have plenty to keep me occupied!

Anyway, I'm thinking of you all at St Mary & St Nicolas and All Saints. I hope you have a beautiful Christmas and enjoy all the lovely services. My address if you want to write is: The Chaplaincy Centre, BFPO 35. That's it! (UK postage & don't put Germany). God Bless, With my love and prayers, Juliette


from the February 2004 Parish Magazine
Letter from Rev Captain Juliette Hulme writing from Iraq:

Dear Friends and Family - The nativity play, which I produced with one of the doctors, went down a treat. We had the traditional story from the Bible interspersed throughout, but contemporised by setting it here in Shaibah, Iraq, with references to the Field Hospital. The innkeeper was played as a grumpy quartermaster and King Herod as a spoof on Saddam Hussein. We had a lot of fun rehearsing it and I had a handsome PT sergeant playing Angel Gabriel who wore blue Para wings and did a forward flip onto the stage to proposition Mary. A beautiful nurse from St Lucia, with great acting talent, played Mary. Two sergeants, who did their rural accents with gusto, played the shepherds and we even had a sheepdog, played by one of the TA nursing majors. The shepherds were dressed as Iraqis, although their accents had more of a Somerset burr!

I had a cameo part as a cockney padre, called in to comfort Joseph in A&E, who'd mangled his hand in a machine after hearing the news that Mary, his fiancée, was pregnant, and thought her story of a "liaison with the Lord" hard to believe. We knelt to pray for guidance from God, which led to Gabriel's athletic reappearance with his instruction to believe Mary and to stand by her. It was a very poignant moment and Joseph's dilemma was something the soldiers could relate to. A group of nurses danced on to Madonna's song Like a Virgin, and at the end we all sang Mary's Boy Child - the Bony M version.

The huge tent was packed out for the performance; it was a surprise to us how many came. Not that there was much other entertainment on! All the nearby chaplains supported it too. The whole play was produced in less than two weeks. It took up a real momentum of its own, with lots of the participants adding their own bits, so it was really a joint production with a good dose of earthiness and humour as well as the beauty of the nativity story. For me, what was most moving was the sheer enthusiasm of so many soldiers to be involved, the majority of whom would never normally go to church. I think it opened the eyes of them to the story in a new and refreshing way (myself included).

The day before Christmas Eve I was invited to the British Embassy in Kuwait City to a carol service hosted by the Ambassador and his wife. It was a lovely evening, with quite a few British troops there. By coincidence, the orchestra was from the Kuwait English school, the first school I taught at many years ago.

On Christmas Eve we had our own carol service - it was packed out and I was glad. I led a midnight mass and then a Christmas Day service, attempting three different talks in case someone went to all three services! It felt a real privilege to be serving the soldiers in Iraq at Christmas.

On Christmas morning we were told we would all be woken by gunfire, which I thought meant pistols being shot up in the air. I was lying in bed next morning bracing myself for the sound, when one of the doctors said "knock, knock" outside my tent, and came in with a hot cup of tea and a Tesco hamper. It was a novel way for me to begin Christmas Day; as a parish priest I was usually up by 6.30 preparing to take the 8am Holy Communion, not lying in bed in a tent in the desert! The Tesco hamper was packed full of goodies such as crisps and Jaffa cakes, mince pies and sweeties and sparkling drinks. Tesco had sent hampers to all the Armed Forces deployed overseas at Christmas. Thank you Tesco, now my top supermarket!

As I sipped my hot tea, I thought how lovely it was to have a cup in bed after so many weeks, and how exceptionally nice it tasted. I didn't find out till I went for breakfast that it had been laced with whisky and sugar - and that was what was meant by being woken by gunfire!
Lots of love, Juliette xxxxx
My correspondence address until 1st May 04 is: 557015 Revd. Capt. JM Hulme, Chaplain, RHQ, UK Medical Group, Op Telic, BFPO 645 (That's it, don't put Iraq! Normal UK postage) More from Juliette next month. Editor


from the March 2004 Parish Magazine
More from Rev Capt Juliette Hulme, serving in Iraq

Dear Friends - After Christmas things quietened down. I went out with some of our medical team and soldiers to support Iraqi medics giving vaccines to the local people living in very poor homesteads. Measles is a problem here; children can become very sick with it. Healthcare generally is poor; many families do not have adequate shelter, food or clothes. Although we saw a lot of poverty I was touched with the kindness with which these poor Iraqi families, scratching a living from a few sheep or geese and some tomato farming in this inhospitable desert, received us. I am hoping to get some clothing to some of the families we are visiting. Because of the security issues here from rebel groups, it is hard for Iraqi medics to travel freely to administer vaccines, so we provide armed cover.

The majority of Iraqis in and around Basra seem glad to have us here. The standard of living for many is very poor. I have never seen so many old battered cars, and it is incredible how any of them go! No MOTs here! The petrol shortage is severe with queues l km long at garages. There is a huge black-market for petrol. Donkey carts are a common sight, and sadly some of the donkeys seem to be cruelly treated. Many look painfully thin, with sores, and are forced to trot along. I hate to see it. I have, however, sometimes seen them grazing freely in the dusty desert roadside scrub, so they are not all being worked to death.

I continue to be impressed by the hospital here. It is huge - and all tented - with 3 wards with a capacity of 72 beds expanding to 150 if necessary. We have 3 surgical teams, 4 intensive care beds and X-ray and dental tents. There are 14 doctors and 60 nurses. Most of the time there are only 10 or 20 patients, usually British soldiers, though we serve all the coalition forces. Sometimes we have Iraqi prisoners of war for operations and they have to be guarded by soldiers. We also provide primary healthcare for the Iraqi workers on the base, but encourage them to use the Basra hospital. Quite a few soldiers are involved in road accidents because the roads here are bad and the Iraqis often pull out without warning. Luckily most of the injuries are not serious.

I have had my first Army death in service to deal with. He was brought to the hospital here but it was too late. Our medical team called me in to give the last rites; it was terrible to see him lying dead, his head bandaged on one side to cover the bullet wounds. It was very upsetting for everyone concerned. Although I knew sooner or later I would have to deal with the death of a soldier I was not prepared for the shock and sadness of it all. At times like this only the grace of God, and the hope of a life beyond this one, can really get us through.

I only leave the base about once a week, sometimes for chaplains' meetings at Basra Palace. The other two chaplains on the base are very nice and we try to meet socially every week and to pray together. There's also a very nice Norwegian chaplain with the Norwegian engineers who all have Viking cap badges on their uniforms and names like Snoggason. He's called Torstein.

The chapel, the other half of my tent, I have renamed "Chapel of the Nativity"; it only sits about 20 but is big enough at the moment. There are usually 15-20 on a Sunday. Doctors make up a third of the congregation and the rest are nurses, den tists and medics with perhaps a soldier or patient. I am never short of people to read or lead the prayers. However, I regularly compete with a lot of noise from mobiles going off for those on call, helicopters landing 200 yards away, Sgt Majors shouting orders, refuse lorries collecting rubbish and people crunching past on the pebbled landscape around the tent. Despite all this, we do manage to worship God, and pray together. Often, just at the distribution of communion, there is silence and the presence of Christ is all around.

Much of my work is visiting the patients, sometimes speaking on their behalf to the doctors, visiting the staff in different parts of the base, being a listening ear for homesick soldiers or those with problems back at home. Generally though I am less busy than I was in Germany and have more time to be available for people. But life is definitely more restricted, less comfortable and more monotonous. I look forward to a hot bath with aromatherapy oils, instead of battling with showers, which you have to press every minute to keep going. I long to drink wine out of a glass instead of a weekly allowance from polystyrene cups. Not to mention tea from a china mug or teacup! I long to see fields, hills, trees and flowers again instead of scrubby desert. I long to see stretches of water, and especially the sea. I miss having a close friend here at the hospital, but I have become quite friendly with Owena who is Welsh and a nursing officer, married to a former Ghurkha, now a house-husband looking after their three children.

We are lucky that we have warmth and shelter, that we have good and regular food, and the best of healthcare. None of these things is there yet for many of the Iraqis, or for many others in our world. These things I hold on to when the going gets tough and I feel far from the people closest to me. Receiving mail through the post is a very special morale booster. Take care, God Bless and may 2004 bring you peace and joy.
Lots of love, Juliette xxxxxx

My correspondence address until 1st May 04 is: 557015 Revd. Capt. JM Hulme, Chaplain, RHQ, UK Medical Group, Op Telic, BFPO 645 (That's it, don't put Iraq! Normal UK postage)

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from the August 2004 magazine
To All my Friends in Leatherhead from Juliette

Thank you all so much for all your prayers whilst I was in Iraq. I know your prayers helped me to minister in God's name in the power of the Holy Spirit. Thank you to all of you who wrote to me whilst I was there, so many of you, and I did value your correspondence. I apologise for not writing individually to you all.

I came back from Iraq in May and had a month's leave and am now back in Germany with Signal Regts near the Dutch border. I will be here until Jan 2005. I hope to visit St Mary's in the autumn. Today I am en route to Durham from Germany for a conference at St Johns College to mark the 10th anniversary of Women's Ordination. May God continue to bless you.
Love, Juliette

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from the November 2005 Parish magazine
From Rev Juliette Hulme

Dear Friends, I am sorry not to have been in touch for a while but I often think of you all and give thanks for the years I lived amongst you. I have recently celebrated my tenth anniversary of Priesthood at St Mary Magdalene Church, Loders, Dorset and I thought of you and my time in Leatherhead.

Thank you for your prayers for me whilst I was serving in Iraq. It was a great privilege to serve our troops out there and a great challenge. I have now left the Army after serving my 3 years and am living in Dorset and studying for an MA in Theology in the area of Christian Spirituality at Sarum College, Salisbury. I am also helping out leading services in the local Dorset villages in the United Benefice of Loders, Askerswell and Powerstock and teaching part-time.

I do wish you all a very happy and blessed Christmas. My address is: No.2 Shatcombe, Uploders, Bridport Dorset DT6 4NR.With love and prayers, Juliette

Link about Loders

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June 2006

We were delighted that Juliette accepted David Eaton's invitiation to former staff to come and preach during 2006. Briony was also there on 11th June 2006, have participated in the the Comedy Revue the previous evening.

Congratulations to Juliette on her recent appointment as Chaplain to a well known Cathedral School - more news soon.

Trinity Sunday 11th June 2006 St Mary’s Leatherhead
Readings: Romans 8: 12-17; John 3: 1-17

Prayer: In the name of God, Creator, Redeemer and Life-Giver. Amen

It is very special to be here with you all again at St Mary & St Nicolas Church. Although I have not seen many of you for a few years, I have felt close in spirit to you, based on over 3 years living and worshipping amongst you from 1998-2001 and through your prayers, cards, letter and emails I received whilst I was in the Army and since. Today is Trinity Sunday and I remember that 6 years ago on Trinity Sunday some of us here had just returned from a wonderful pilgrimage to Oberammergau uplifted by the experience of the Alps and the glorious Passion Play.

As Christians part of our doctrine is belief in the Trinity. In the Nicene or Apostles’ Creed through which we affirm our faith Sunday by Sunday we state our belief in God the Father, the Almighty, in Jesus Christ the Son of God and in the Holy Spirit, the Lord, the Giver of Life. We are used to attempting to see God as 3 persons, Father, Son and Holy Spirit, yet somehow one person. Almost as if it was some sort of mathematical problem of how the Three and the One are united instead of seeing it as a mystery that is personally involved with us and in us.

Since October of last year I have been studying part-time for an MA in Christian Spirituality at Sarum College, Salisbury. We have been looking at a wide range of areas - most recently I have completed a module on Contemporary Spirituality when we looked at the relationship between Western and Eastern Spirituality and learnt about Father Bede Griffiths. Father Bede was a Benedictine monk who settled in India and started a Christian Ashram in the 1950s which has continued beyond his death in 1993 to this day. He wanted to bring aspects of Eastern culture, life & spirituality into his monastic Christian life and work there. Father Bede was a very humble, yet learned man full of the love of God’s creation. He was a man way ahead of his time making great roads into uncharted territory. Cardinal Hume called him ‘a mystic in touch with absolute love and beauty’.

Bede’s wrote that he understood the Trinity differently after 40 years in India than when he had first learnt about it through his Western Education. Bede’s view, which he believes is the biblical view, is that the Father is eternally bringing forth the Son, the Word of God and from the Word of God comes forth Creation [1].

The beautiful words from the start of John’s Gospel, ‘In the beginning was the Word: the Word was with God and the Word was God. He was with God in the beginning. Through him all things came into being…’ [2]

These familiar words read annually at Christmas Carol Services across the world, try and put into words the great mystery of God, Jesus and Creation. What Bede I believe is trying to say is that the process of creation, incarnation, death and resurrection is ongoing, eternal, never ending. Plato said ‘ Time is a moving image of unmoving eternity’ that is although time runs on, as our lives run their course with our birth, childhood, adulthood, old age and death, this journey of time, like an ever-rolling stream, in our lives is contained and embraced in eternity which is always there and always continues.

We look to God, as the hymn writer Isaac Watts wrote, as our help in ages past and our hope for years to come, and in our lives and at our deaths to be our eternal home [3].

Each one of us, Bede writes, exists eternally in God and his purpose for each one of us. Our true aim in life is to be what God has created us to be and for each one of us that is unique. Some of you may have seen the programme the Monastery Revisited, shown last Wednesday on BBC2, which followed the lives of 5 very different men as they left their comfort zones and spent 40 days and 40 nights living at the Benedictine Community, Worth Abbey in Sussex. One of the young men Tony, who had been working in the soft porn industry and struggling with alcoholism, spent his time there truly searching for a relationship with God.

In his last session with Br Francis, his Spiritual director, Br Francis gave him a white stone to keep and tells him that we all have our Christian name and our family name but that we have another name. In the book of Revelation the angel says it states our name is written on a white stone in heaven. Br Francis went on to say to Tony that our vocation in life is to find out what that name is and it’s a life-long quest. What is my white stone name? What am I meant to be doing? What am I meant to be? For Tony this encounter had a profound effect. He experienced a transformation in his inner being which changed the path of his life. Since leaving the monastery 2 years ago he has found the strength to leave his previous behind and to work towards a life of service to others and truer to himself.

In this moment of transformation, Tony was touched by God. It was not possible to explain it fully, and words were inadequate. But perhaps one could say there was something of the Trinitarian love of God there for Tony. The Trinity is a relationship of love and community, as Mother Julian of Norwich writes the Trinity is Might, Wisdom and Love [4] or Maker, Keeper, Lover, there are many ways of trying to understand the Trinity.

But it is a relationship of love between the Godhead and between us with God. This unconditional love was shown by the brothers at Worth Abbey to the young men who came to live amongst them. They all grew to trust and confide in their own Spiritual Guides and Tony grew in strength and faith through the ministry of Br Francis. It was within this relationship of unconditional love that Br Francis showed for Tony and Tony’s trust in him, that the presence of Our Lord Jesus and the power of the Holy Spirit was able to transform something within Tony. We all experience the presence of God through other people, often those whose work and life it has been to search for God and live out their Christian faith. If we reflect on our lives we can identify one or two people who have had a great part in leading us towards a deeper relationship with God. A person who is even now helping us to find our vocation in life, an ongoing journey.

Father Bede’s vocation was to bring about understanding and acceptance between Eastern and Western Religions and in his Ashram in India many disillusioned Westerners came there and found spiritual renewal. Pilgrims from all continents found enlightenment by joining the simple life of manual work, prayer, study and rest, the Way of St Benedict but with great insights on meditation from the Eastern religions.

In our Gospel reading today, Nicodemus is puzzled when talking to Jesus, ‘How can we be born twice?' Jesus talks to him about the life of the Spirit, how we need to be born from above, that is we need to born of the Spirit of God. As I was thinking on Friday how to put my thoughts to paper I was looking out of my bedroom window in my cottage in Dorset. Across the lane is a large field sloping upwards to a hill on which stands one lone tree on the horizon. This field had sheep grazing in it earlier this year but has recently been left for the grass to grow long ready to be cut for hay later this month. I wrote:

‘The last few days have been very hot and still with little breeze but today there is a strong south easterly wind blowing. The effect on this field of long grass is breathtaking. The field has become like a green sea with gusts of wind sending ripples and waves through the grasses. The sun catches the tops of the grass seeded blades, leaving silver light patches like white horses on a rough sea. The long grasses toss and turn, whisper, rustle and sigh with the wind and the field is so alive.’

Jesus says uses the wind as an analogy of the Holy Spirit. There is a sense in which when the Holy Spirit touches people’s lives they are transformed into something different, something more alive.

So where have we come to in our understanding of the Trinity- perhaps that it is unable to be defined by mere words, by our intellects, but by our experience. That it is a flowing relationship, a community and like all good relationships and communities, much that is beautiful and special and transforming can only be understood by the experience of it, which goes beyond words.

Let me tell you a story from when I was in Iraq. As chaplain to a Field Hospital I saw part of my work was to raise morale amongst the troops as well as give spiritual and pastoral support to the patients in the hospital. It was a difficult dispersed community with different groups drawn in from all parts of UK and Germany, including many TA soldiers, some of whom never expected when they joined the TA to be in Iraq at only 18yrs old. Many who had to work and live together had never met before they came to Basra. There were cliques with people isolated and feeling left out as you would expect in any large group of 300 or so. Yet there was work to be done and on the whole people worked well together, but there was not a great sense of cohesion or unity.

As many of you know I love drama, and I decided with the help of a doctor to put on a Nativity play. It was loosely based on the Jesus’ Birthday Party/ the Grumpy Innkeeper play which we once performed here at St Mary’s, but enlarged and adapted for an adult audience of soldiers. I was keen that we included all the aspects of the nativity narratives from the Gospel of Luke and Matthew. So we had all the readings interspersed through the play with Christmas carols, and a modern re-enactment of the scene each time, bringing in some comedy. We set it the story near Basra with ‘in house’ references to the hospital.

Angel Gabriel, was a hunky PT sergeant in charge of the gym, and was given blue para wings instead of angel wings, the symbol of the Parachute Regiments, one of whom was stationed nearby. Mary was played by a St Lucian nurse with great acting gifts, the Grumpy Innkeeper became a Grumpy Quartermaster reluctant to give out the cold weather gear issued to the soldiers, and Herod became Herod Hussein, the villain of the piece (interestingly we put the play on just after Saddam’s capture). One of the Kings was played by the 2nd in Command of the whole Field Hospital, so that helped having him behind the production.

The Shepherds were hanging out socks and underwear to the tune of ‘While Shepherds watched their Flocks by Night’ when the Angels arrived to tell them the good news of Jesus’ birth. Joseph banged his thumb in the carpentry department and ended up in A&E when he heard that Mary his girlfriend was pregnant. On trying to explain to the Dr that he didn’t understand how she could be pregnant when they’d only kissed, and that he finds it hard to believe her when she says the baby is from God, the A&E Dr couldn’t cope and calls in the Padre- my entrance!

The Angels were all played by beautiful young nurses with huge angel wings they had made. They requested to do a closing dance to Madonna’s song ‘Like a Virgin’ (which I vetted first). In the finale, at the end of their dance, they lined up with their backs to the audience, tipped forward to show the tiny white shorts on under their mini skirts with a letter on each white buttock spelling out HAPPY CHRISTMAS. As you can imagine the huge tent packed out with mainly male soldiers were delighted!

For all of us taking part, the fun we had at rehearsals and the joy it brought to many soldiers, some of whom had never been to church and seen a nativity play, was deeply fulfilling. I still remember the laughs we had calling those late for rehearsal over the Tannoy system. ‘Shepherds report to tent, angels are awaiting you’, or ‘Mary is looking for Joseph and has lost Angel Gabriel. Please come quickly.’ This was before the RSM stepped in and put a stop to our using the Tannoy system for ‘non essential items’!

The work of the play took on a life of its own. Tense relationships between different members of departments in the hospital became more relaxed. There was fun in the air interspersed through the day when the serious work of caring for injured or sick soldiers continued. It brought a relief to the pangs of homesickness we all experienced. We knew that if there was a serious attack on our troops in Southern Iraq, we wouldn’t be able to go ahead with the play. But God blessed our endeavours and the play went ahead 3 days before Christmas. The word had got round all the nearby Army camps and we had many cramming into the large tent.

As a priest I was very moved to be able to share the Good News of Jesus Christ coming to live amongst us with so many who were outside the traditional church. There was a mystery in how it all came together in the unusual circumstances of Iraq, but somehow through our own efforts and normal relationships, the Word of God, read and acted and experienced, broke through the darkness of this time and brought joy to many. There was a true sense of community on our camp that Christmas in Iraq.

My prayer for us all is that in our relationships we may find and create community with each other and with those seeking community.. Surely the power and grace of the Trinity is in its mystery, its wisdom and its love which meets and embraces us in our searching and our need.

Let us pray:

O God our mystery,
You bring us to life,
Call us to freedom,
and move between us with love.
May we so participate
in the dance of your trinity,
that our lives may resonate with you,
now and forever, Amen

1 Barnhart, B The One Light: Bede Griffith’s Principal Writings Templegate Publ, USA 2001
2 John 1. 1-3a New Jerusalem Bible NT
3 Watts, I. Hymns A&M No 99 ‘O God our help in ages past’
4 Sheldrake, P ‘Spirituality and Theology’ p.113 DLT
5 Morley, J All Desires Known MOW 1988

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from the August 2006 Parish magazine
A message from Juliette

It was very special for me to come back to St Mary and St Nicholas to preach recently on Trinity Sunday. I was reminded what a beautiful and cared for church it is. It was lovely to see old friends and you all made me feel very welcome. It was a joyous occasion. Thank you.

I start my new post as Chaplain to Wells Cathedral School in September. The school has both boy and girl choristers who sing in the Cathedral and there is also a specialist music department for gifted children. I shall be working closely with the Cathedral and teaching half a timetable in English, Drama and Religious Studies. There are about 500 children aged from 3 to 18 years with 200 boarders. I am looking forward to my new post and ask for your prayers in September as I begin.
With love and prayers,
Juliette

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Interview on BBC Woman's Hour, Tuesday 20th March

"Deep in the Somerset countryside, nestling in the foothills of the Mendips lies Wells - the smallest city in England. Recently thrust into the limelight as the back drop for the box office hit Hot Fuzz, it's better known for the beautiful medieval cathedral that dominates its sky-line.

Now Wells Cathedral School is putting the city under the spotlight again by employing the first female chaplain at the school in its 1100 year history.

This may be a first for the school, but the Reverend Juliette Hulme is something of a trail blazer. She was among the first group of women to be ordained in 1995, she was the British Army's first female chaplain - and was stationed in Iraq for six months. And she was one of the oldest recruits on the officer training course at Sandhurst.

Jo Dwyer met her at the cathedral to find out more about her new job."

Click http://www.bbc.co.uk/radio4/womanshour/listenagain/2007_12_tue.shtml
(you may need to download appropriate software)

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A Message from Juliette - from the Feb 2011 magazine

Juliette Hulme was Assistant Priest here from 1998 to 2001. She writes: I have fond memories of Christmas with you all 1998 - 2000 and hope you are all well. I'm still working as a Chaplain at Wells Cathedral School where I've now been over 4 years. I went to Iona in the Summer and that was lovely. Also Florence on a school trip where we got stuck because of the Icelandic volcano and had to come back overland. It took 28 hours by coach! I hope you've had a good year and hope to see some of you in 2011. My contact details can be had from the Parish Office. Juliette Hulme

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website links

Soren Larsen
Royal Army Chaplains Department
Wells Cathedral School of choristers Ancient and Modern

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