Heartbeat Magazine previous articles

Here are some articles from recent issues of Heartbeat.  We will add more over the coming weeks...


BIDFORD CHRISTMAS LIGHTS 200 CLUB {from December 2013}, by Pete Batacanin

Bidford Christmas Lights have done many fund-raising activities since starting back in 1999.  The idea of fund-raising is to maintain the lights and create new ideas.  The lights are run by a committee who are all volunteers and the majority of the income has been raised through fund-raising.

Most events have worked well, but one of our more consistent fund-raisers is the 200 Club that we started over five years ago.  Since then, the membership has gradually increased each year, with 2013 reaching a high of 372 members.

We start the renewal process at the end of the year when we distribute renewal leaflets throughout the parish of Bidford, including Broom, Marlcliff and Barton. (Membership is open to anyone, whether or not they live in the parish of Bidford.)  The closing date for entries is Sunday, 5th January 2014 (however we can be flexible on this).

So, what are the details?

  • Membership per person is £12 a year with monthly cash prizes of £50, £30, £20 and £10.  The cash prizes are doubled in the June and December draws.  The more members, the bigger the prize money.
  • The draw takes place on the third Thursday of the month at the 'Jolly Teapot', located in the church rooms, Church Street, Bidford.  The first draw is on 16th January.
  • Winners are usually notified by ‘phone and the envelopes delivered by hand: winners’ names are also published in Heartbeat.
  • The entry fee of £12 is payable by cheque to ‘Bidford Christmas Lights’, in cash, or by annual standing order to ‘Bidford Christmas Lights’.  Cheques will not be banked until after the closing date.  Standing order forms are available from committee members.
  • There’s no limit to the number of entries per household.
  • Each entry will have a membership number, which will be issued and delivered after the closing date.
  • Members who already have a standing order need do nothing.

We are very happy to welcome new members, from across the Heart of England Parishes and beyond.  For more information, or to join the 200 Club, please contact us through the Heartbeat editor (goosecottage@btinternet.com) or call in at the Jolly Teapot on a Thursday morning.

Thank you to all those of you who have supported us over the years.


A READER WRITES… {from April 2014}, by Sylvia Muller

What excellent value this little magazine is!  Useful advertisements that have come to my rescue on more than one occasion - should we mention we saw them in Heartbeat?  <Editor’s note: Yes, please!>
News from the villages and their churches, dates for the diary, reports of the various events that have taken place, advance notice of those to come, and if you’re looking for a club or organisation to join then useful information can be found somewhere within the Heartbeat pages.
Last month I read with interest the article 'A Walk in the Woods' - Oversley Woods!  I have lived in Bidford for 5 years and, in spite of several attempts, the whereabouts of the car park and entrance to Oversley Woods have eluded me.  But thanks to Heartbeat, I have found the woods and I am looking forward to exploring them with my dog Bertie, especially during the bluebell season.
Yes, for 50p a month, £5 for the year, this is definitely a good buy and always worth waiting for.


A WALK IN THE WOODS {from March 2014} by the editor

To celebrate the onset of Spring, what could be better than a health-promoting walk in the great outdoors? We are blessed with plenty of good walks in and around the Heart of England parishes, but one of our absolute favourites is the 2.5 mile track around Oversley Woods. Maintained by the Forestry Commission, this glorious 230 acre piece of English mixed woodland is well worth visiting at any time of the year. A firm favourite with walkers (with or without dogs), runners, cyclists and horse-riders, there always seems to be something new to discover. The first time we visited Oversley Woods happened to be on a sunny spring day when the bluebells were out in force, and I can honestly say I’d never seen such an impressive display of wild flowers.

Access to the woods can be had from the Stratford Road out of Alcester, just before it joins the A46. There’s a small car park along the signposted track, just under the A46 bridge. (Although the car park is almost immediately under the busy A46, it’s quite secluded – so remember to take sensible precautions and don’t leave valuables around!)

The Forestry Commission maintains a good and relatively level track around the woods, or there are countless off-track rides and pathways through the trees (some of them quite steep!) for the more adventurous visitor. If you follow the track away from the car park, notice how the rumble of the A46 gradually fades. Watch out for deer on the woodland margins, and there’s an abundance of other wildlife, trees and plants to see.

Sticking to the main track, at an average walking pace you can bank on it taking about an hour to get all the way back to the car park. You’re unlikely to get lost, and the background hum of the A46 will give you a clue as to how far round you are.

For the stronger walker, the Heart of England Way and the Arden Way both pass very close to Oversley Woods, offering more strenuous variations on this lovely woodland walk.


REPENTANCE, OR LACK OF IT  {from March 2014}

A reflection from Fr. Kevin Grumball on Jonah 3:1-5:10

Then the word of the Lord came to Jonah a second time: ‘Go to the great city of Nineveh and proclaim to it the message I give you.’  Jonah obeyed the word of the Lord and went to Nineveh.  Now Nineveh was a very large city; it took three days to go through it.  Jonah began by going a day’s journey into the city, proclaiming, ‘Forty more days and Nineveh will be overthrown.’  The Ninevites believed God.  A fast was proclaimed, and all of them, from the greatest to the least, put on sackcloth. When God saw what they did and how they turned from their evil ways, he relented and did not bring on them the destruction he had threatened.

I’ve felt like Jonah. There are times when you’re really annoyed with someone who is behaving badly and what you most want is for God (or anyone else) to really smite them.  You know that they’ve really got it coming and you can’t wait for it to happen.  However, in your heart you know that God has absolutely no interest in actually doing so.

In the chapter before, God had told Jonah to go and tell the people in Nineveh to repent, or they would be destroyed. You might think that he’d be really pleased to deliver such a message, although doing so would probably come at considerable personal risk.  It must be deeply satisfying though, to shout out “Repent, or God will destroy you all”.

Jonah, however, was not at all impressed with this task and he immediately set off in the opposite direction, which is why there was a massive storm and eventually they threw him overboard, to be swallowed by a great fish.  That’s the bit of the story that everyone focuses on, which is a shame, because it’s not the main point at all.  God just used the fish to get Jonah to where he was supposed to be, even though Jonah was defying him.  It’s actually a kindness on God’s part that he didn’t give up on Jonah.  He could probably have let him drown and sent someone else, but he didn’t.

But why did Jonah refuse to go in the first place?  As we see in the passage following this one, it wasn’t because he was afraid of getting beaten up.  After all, he showed great courage (and faith) during the storm, by insisting that it was his fault and suggesting that he be thrown overboard.  No, it was more because in part he was worried about looking a fool, but more importantly because he wanted Nineveh to be destroyed.  Jonah knew about God’s love and mercy and so he was quite sure that he was being sent to Nineveh so that they wouldn’t be annihilated.

Just as he feared, when he arrived in Nineveh and gave his terrible warning, they actually listened to him.  They put on sackcloth and repented, which turned God’s anger from them.  Far from being pleased at producing repentance and forgiveness, Jonah was actually livid.  He didn’t get what he wanted at all, instead he got what God wanted, which was repentance and turning from sin.  This month we enter the period of Lent, which is when Christians traditionally think more about the things they have done wrong and repent of them.  We then ask God to forgive us and he does.

God is always more interested in turning evil to good, than in punishing us, even if we really deserve it.  That is the Good News. Nineveh was a vile place and the Assyrians were a terrible people, but God still wanted them to change. History notes that their repentance didn’t last long and they were eventually wiped out and nothing now remains of them.

The message of Jonah, though, is that God reaches out to us all and offers us another chance to follow him and be fishers of men.  May he send us out to proclaim his Good News in the same way as his first disciples did.  Even our corrupt nation might still turn and be saved.


THE JOURNEY OF A “HEARTBEAT” {from December 2013} by Sylvia Muller

I start life as a number of items on the Editor’s desk, having arrived via email, by hand or by post before the appointed deadline date (16th of the month).  The Editor then has the task of chasing-up any stragglers and making all the contributions into a balanced and interesting magazine, covering local church and village events.

I am then sent off to the printer, who does a wonderful job of interpreting the Editor’s notes, instructions and requests before setting me out tidily, laying out the contents page, updating the cover and doing any other art work that is required.  I return to the Editor to be proof-read, then it's back for a final tidy-up before I go to be printed.
It is in this department that I meet up with the advertisements.  I know some of you think there are too many of them, but they do generate an income and help keep my cover price down: I am pleased to think that I am, in a small way, helping local businesses too.
Suddenly I am NOT just one but 800+ Heartbeats, being printed, folded, stapled and packed into boxes for delivery to the villages.  Out of the boxes come the Heartbeats, then one of our distribution co-ordinators delivers 140 to St Matthew’s Church whilst the other zooms around the country lanes despatching a total of 234 between the distributors in Wixford, Exhall, the Graftons and Binton.  That leaves 445 to be forwarded to 22 distributors in Bidford, Broom and Marlcliff.  Heartbeat can also be found in the Library, the Newsagent’s, One Stop and of course in all of our six churches.
And so the Heartbeat reaches the end of its journey as it is delivered to you, the reader, by your distributor who will put it through your letterbox as soon as possible. Happy Reading!
NB: Although there is a deadline for copy, a date and time for delivery cannot be guaranteed.  But rest assured, we all do our very best to get Heartbeat out as near to the beginning of the month as possible.  Please be patient if you feel your copy was delivered later than your friend’s.  It could be that your distributor had a fully-committed day and had no choice but to leave it for a less busy one.
We are very grateful to all our distributors, whether they deliver less than 5 or more than 50.  Please continue to support Heartbeat by subscription and by submitting articles about forthcoming events or those you have enjoyed.


LET SLEEPING NUNS LIE  {from December 2013} by Mary Chowen

The monastic memoirs of a former nun

It was just as well that she had had been used to bathing quickly.  All of those years at boarding school, with freezing water in bowls beside the white counterpained beds would be very useful now.  Only five minutes were allowed for the weekly bath.  However, this was quite a shock for a girl of the 70’s used to mod cons.  But this was a different life she had chosen, it was like walking back into the previous century.  As she lay there in the shallow lukewarm water staring at the ceiling, gaunt and starkly white, she remembered how she had made many decisions that would lead her to this Abbey in a flat Kent landscape.

God had always been a friend and ally, someone who never let her down.  He was worth giving everything up for, but it was a mixed blessing. It was hard to leave family and friends, even though the excitement of this new life and adventure had surpassed her sorrow.

The angelus bell began to ring its steady beat; it was very loud as her cell was high up in the mediaeval eaves of the Saxon foundation. It was almost time for Matins, the midday Office [prayers], and then it would be lunch.  She really needed this bath, all morning they had been toiling in the fields using primitive farming implements.  Making hay was hard but also fun.  A small tractor was used to cut and turn the hay and when it was almost dry it would be turned by hand.  It would look very strange to a passer-by.  The field dotted with a row of blue-aproned nuns with wooden rakes and sun hats on, which was a necessary adornment in the savage summer sun.  Soon when the hay was turning gold it would be placed on sticks and later put on a hay cart to be taken to the barn.  It was reminiscent of the Van Gough paintings of the Southern French fields of Arles.

She was trying to make up her mind whether to wash the few locks she had remaining, but decided not to.  Soap doesn’t do much for the scalp and the shampoo sent from home which had lasted miraculously for almost a year was long gone.  Luxuries previously taken for granted were not necessary here.  Hard work and continuous prayer were the daily rhythm of a monastic life, almost unchanging from mediaeval times.  Life was ticking away, her life could continue to tick away unnoticed in silence.  It was for her to choose her destiny.

Editor's note: this is an excerpt from the recently-published book by local author Mary Chowen, writing as Mary Kensa, based on her experiences living in a Benedictine Abbey in the 1970s.  For more information, or to obtain a copy of Mary's book, follow this Amazon UK link: http://www.amazon.co.uk/dp/1493770543


WHAT’S IN A NAME – EXHALL  {from June 2013} by the Editor

Reading Sylvia Muller’s report of the Rogation Sunday service at St Giles reminded me of something I heard a few years ago concerning the meaning of the place-name “Exhall”.  Like so many English place-names, Exhall is of Anglo-Saxon origins.  It has two parts – “ex”, which comes from an old word for church, and “hall” which means nook or hollow.  (Standing on the ridge at Arden’s Grafton and admiring the wonderful view, it is quite easy to understand where the “hollow” part might have come from.)  And there is a sense of being “hidden away” - just ask any visitor who has struggled to find Exhall without the aid of a SatNav!

But it is the “church” part which is of special interest; (“church” probably meant “group of Christian worshippers” rather than a formal religious building).  To understand the implications, it is worth taking a quick look at what happened between the end of Roman rule in Britain and the Norman conquest in 1066.

The Romans left Britain in around 400AD, and records of life in these islands are quite scarce for the next 600 years.  These six centuries are called the “dark ages” because so little information survives about them.  What understanding we have is derived from many disparate sources, and involves a lot of conjecture.  One thing we do know is that, sometime after the end of Roman rule, Britain came under Anglo-Saxon control, as groups of settlers moved in from the European continent to take advantage of the fertile and largely undefended farmlands.  The Roman empire was nominally Christian after 313AD, when the emperor Constantine embraced Christianity.  But it has often been assumed that when the Romans left, the British reverted to pre-Christian ways, either through preference or because of influence from the Anglo-Saxon settlers.  Then everything changed again in 597AD, when Augustine was appointed as first Archbishop of Canterbury and the real conversion to Christianity began.

What has all this got to do with Exhall?

Well, scholars who have researched the few records that survive from the dark ages tell us that it is likely that Christian worship survived after the end of Roman Britain: whilst the major towns and cities reverted or converted to pagan worship, pockets of Roman Christianity remained in out-of-the-way places.  There is also evidence to suggest that, in the western midland counties of England, it was those small groups of worshippers who began to convert the Anglo-Saxon settlers among them to Christianity, quite independently of the Augustinian conversions.  Which is why, when I visit St Giles’s church, I always get a particular tingle when I think that Christian worship (and conversion) has probably been practised there, quietly and continuously, since the time of the Roman Empire - 1,700 years ago.