September 2023 message from Revd. Hilary Young

St. Mary’s Letter for September

Dear Friends,
The end of July is a challenging time to think about events of September into October, but see below for what’s known at time of writing. A big ‘thank you’ to the whole Gazette team for their hard work editing and collating information, laying it out, seeing to printing, and delivering. For those new to the village, the publication started from St Mary’s Church and has expanded into a community effort to which both churches input but do not control in any way.

There will be items that come up after the copy deadline – in particular we are working on new service pat- terns to start in the late Autumn run- up to Christmas. A questionnaire, long in the planning, may accompany this or the next Gazette to see if the organ- ised churches in Gamlingay can be of more service in enabling worship in the communities we serve – obviously no need to take part if this is ‘not your thing’!

As we are hearing more about climate change at every turn, and our parish council has declared a climate emergency, I am proud to write about our churches taking seriously the

management of churchyards to reduce carbon emissions and preserve and enhance wildlife habitat. ‘Caring for God’s creation’ hasn’t always been taken seriously by Christians, but then that applies to almost any aspect of what it means to be a Christian. For- tunately God is at work both within and without the Church, indeed the divine creative power we call God has been at work from the beginning of time, i.e. very, very much longer than the earth, let alone humanity, let alone the Church, has been in existence. Current church may be late to the party, but at least we are joining it. We may not always get it right, but at least we are trying.

Progress is rarely without challenge, and it could have been disappointing to find the negativity from some about the ‘uncared-for’ appearance of the churchyards in both Everton and Gamlingay – except that:

a) this was to be expected, culture change is never quick, and per- ceptions of what looks cared-for vary

b) this is still ‘work in progress’ and the plan will take time to shape fully.

More volunteers are needed to get the work done in a timely fashion,
if you can help, do get in touch with Hilary or (in Gamlingay) Alec Hissett and Peter Condon, (in Hatley) Nicola Jenkins, (in Everton) Jane Butcher.

Here are two misconceptions, with answers that may not satisfy everyone, but which are true:

There are plenty of places for wild flowers and other wildlife to flour­ ish, churchyards, especially in the countryside, are not appropriate places for conservation practices.

No, there are not plenty of places like churchyards, especially those in the countryside. They are places where many wildflowers survive which are lost elsewhere. This is because the widespread use of ferti- lisers and pesticides necessary for modern intensive agriculture are not usually in use. The special habitats of nutrient-poor grassland are now rare; churchyards can be such, because the ground is not disturbed by ploughing nor the grass enhanced by fertilising.
If mown in the right way, and/or grazed by animals the right conditions can be preserved – the key is to cut and remove the cuttings, whenever the cutting takes place.

Calling a place a ‘wild area’ is just laziness and an excuse for saving money. All that happens is that weeds grow and make it look a mess.

No, not laziness, it can take as much work to manage for wildlife as to keep tidy. This can cost unless volunteers are found to look after a wild area pro- perly. What we call weeds are plants that grow freely where we do not want them. They often feed creatures we like to see and need – like the bees we depend on far more than we might imagine, and butterflies we enjoy, which in turn feed the birds. One person’s mess is another’s rich habitat, we need to know what’s really going on before shouting (or muttering) if we are to truly thrive in the world in which we live.

The July weather has been very dis- appointing this year, but the scything course I organised in early July with Peter Condon from the Climate Action Group was still possible, and has resulted, at time of writing, in some mowing in Gamlingay and St Denis churchyards, plus two scythes and several keen novices available to do an environmentally friendly cutting of grass managed for meadow flowers in the local communities.

The course was fascinating in pro- viding some clear methodology and reasoning behind mowing timing, as well as both enabling some of us to use a scythe and convincing us of the practicality on many levels of using this traditional tool. Not only does a scythe not need to burn petrol and doesn’t make a noise to disturb the neighbours, it is also much safer (contrary to popular belief) than a strimmer, both for the user and for those around (provided they say out of swing distance – which is a shorter distance than the strimmer). I find the biggest challenge is getting the scythe set up correctly, and keeping it sharp. If that’s done and it’s used rightly it doesn’t take that much energy, though it does provide a good workout.

So – I hope we have started a trend in this community, using

people-power and hand tools rather than machines where possible. This doesn’t mean there is no place for petrol and electric mowers and other power tools. Like many things, a mixed economy makes most sense. But if we can effectively do something manually, we should. If it saves money, so much the better, but value can, and should be measured in many more ways than the purely financial.

Thank God for Jesus, who teaches us an obvious truth when we look, that ‘life is more than clothes and food’ – of course we need these, but they are not what make us human. Real love – the ultimate good of the beloved, is a sign and a gift of God, shown to us in the person of Jesus. May we help one another in finding and living out that truth.

Heads up for October

Harvest Festivals in the Anglican churches will be the first weekend in October so expect harvest suppers around then. The Sunday is on the
1st October. We will also be supporting the green weekend later in the month.

Churches will be collecting gifts of preserved food (well in date we hope!) as well as fresh produce to decorate the buildings in thanksgiving for all we are blessed with. Gifts will be distributed afterwards through our connected charities – fresh produce may be available to buy.

Hilary will be offering a ‘Harvest of Talents’ again this year. Borrow from her (or use your own money) to do something that will increase the value of the input, then return the result to Hilary or church treasurers (listed in the Benefice Newsletter). We will collect up and publish the resulting total at the end of October. This money will be used for the running costs of whichever church the donor chooses. Where not specified this will be Gamlingay where the need is greatest.

Many blessings all.

Love from Hilary