Posada 2017 – Box Hill and Headley

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Throughout Advent, wooden figures of the Holy family (Joseph and a pregnant Mary seated on a donkey), are making their way through our parish from Box Hill to Headley and are due to arrive to at St Mary’s in time for the crib service at 3pm on Christmas Eve.

Learn more about the Posada here Posada guide 2017

You can follow their adventures on the Facebook pages of the two churches



6th December: Barrie Fox  – lots of bedtime reading here!

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5/12/2017  In Michelle’s shrine (not watching TV!)

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4/12/2017 Margaret and Bill – We enjoyed saying the suggested prayers, including the one for the family – we surrounded the figures with pictures of our grandchildren.

Donnelly family pcis


4/12/2017 Today our Posada figures observed our Meditation Group at 3pm as Karen passed them to Margaret

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3/12/2017 Karen’s light of the world

2/12/17  Celia and Keith

1/12/2017  Martin and Sara

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Be prepared, be very prepared!

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So are you prepared for the coming of the Lord?

The Gospel that we have just heard makes it sound rather frightening:

But in those days, following that distress,
the sun will be darkened,
    and the moon will not give its light;
the stars will fall from the sky,
    and the heavenly bodies will be shaken.

What happened to the tinsel and the ho-ho-ho?

Mark is quoting from Isaiah 13 which told of the destruction of Jerusalem by the Babylonians

9 See, the day of the Lord is coming
   – a cruel day, with wrath and fierce anger –
to make the land desolate
    and destroy the sinners within it.
10 The stars of heaven and their constellations
    will not show their light.
The rising sun will be darkened
    and the moon will not give its light.
11 I will punish the world for its evil,
    the wicked for their sins.

It sounds like the end of the world and it is – Mark is referring to the second destruction of Jerusalem in 70AD and the death of many of his listeners

And people were and indeed are very frightened of death.

And that does not seem unreasonable to me.

Life is a great gift but it is fragile

Our Gospel warns us to be ready – to mount a watch

But what can we do to be prepared?

Paul says that through the teaching of Jesus we have all that we need:

 I always thank my God for you because of his grace given you in Christ Jesus. 5 For in him you have been enriched in every way – with all kinds of speech and with all knowledge – 6 God thus confirming our testimony about Christ among you. 7 Therefore you do not lack any spiritual gift as you eagerly wait for our Lord Jesus Christ to be revealed.

So what is this teaching about the Grace of God?

Christmas is all about story and the run up to Christmas is a crescendo of excitement as much in Church as outside and the crescendo in the story of the Grace of God will be told in these four Sundays of Advent

Represented by the four candles on our advent crown – as we light each candle we move from darkness into light

We trace the story of God’s involvement with mankind – or perhaps the story of man’s understanding of God

Advent 1 – the Patriarchs – Moses meeting God in the burning bush – God in the violence of the natural world

Advent 2 – The prophets – those who reminded us of the law – like Isaiah in our reading – who are disappointed that God does not appear to be so active in the world
 that you would tear open the heavens and come down,
so that the mountains would quake at your presence

But we learn from another prophet, Elijah, that God is in the stillness more than in the earthquake, wind and fire (1 Kings 19)

Advent 3. John the Baptist – God is with us if only we would notice – John teaches us to repent and be saved – repent in Greek is metanoia – literally to change your mind – wake up and smell the coffee.   Just as John pointed out Jesus to the disciples Andrew, Peter, James and John, so we should notice Christ in the world today.

Advent 4 – the pink candle for our Patron, the virgin Mary – the God bearer.  She teaches us that God is with us as one of us – a human being – that our sufferings can not be avoided but are shared with God who is not distant but with us.  The word we often use at Christmastime, Emmanuel – literally means God with us

Can you see the ascending scale of intimacy?

We become increasingly aware that God is actually with us, living as one of us, is in us

A thing which we will remember and celebrate at our Eucharist this morning

But if God is already here what is the point of all this waiting in Advent?

First we wait while we look back to remember what it was like before Christ

Second we wait while we look forward expectantly to the fulfillment of the kingdom of God at some time and in some way still to be revealed.

Thirdly we wait, patiently and take note that we are at peace reconciled with God in heaven right now.  For right now, we ask God to be with us today in our Holy Communion – ‘by the power of the Holy spirit these gifts of bread and wine may be to us the body and blood of our lord Jesus Christ’

So how are we going to prepare this Advent, in this time of waiting?

Personally, I suggest we watch the story – go to every nativity and carol service (I have to!) and observe – let it sink in.

Learn the story – work out what it means to you – that God is not distant but at hand – ‘at the very gates’

Tell the story – like St Paul – who had an experience of God being with us –  that Jesus is Emmanuel – that God is truly with us

And not a God of destruction and fire and earthquakes

But a God of grace, of mercy and of peace.  Amen

Sermon preached by Revd Christopher Hancock
at St Mary’s Headley, 3rd December 2017, (Advent Sunday) 

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I died in hell. They called it Passchendaele

Memorial Tablet  (GREAT WAR)
by Siegfried Sassoon

SQUIRE nagged and bullied till I went to fight,         
(Under Lord Derby’s Scheme). I died in hell—          
(They called it Passchendaele). My wound was slight,       
And I was hobbling back; and then a shell     
Burst slick upon the duck-boards: so I fell
Into the bottomless mud, and lost the light. 

At sermon-time, while Squire is in his pew,  
He gives my gilded name a thoughtful stare:
For, though low down upon the list, I’m there;        
‘In proud and glorious memory’ … that’s my due.   
Two bleeding years I fought in France, for Squire:  
I suffered anguish that he’s never guessed.  

Once I came home on leave: and then went west…           
What greater glory could a man desire?


mud soldier

May I speak In the name of the living and loving God whom we know as + Father, Son and Holy Spirit Amen

The Third battle of Ypres, commonly known as the battle of Passchendaele, began on 31st July, 1917.  When it petered out at the end of the year, half a million men – 300,00 British and 200,000 German – had been killed or wounded.

It was planned as the first stage of a rapid advance along the coast to liberate the Belgian ports and was to build on the relative success of the battle of Arras in April and May at which the British had achieved the biggest advance of the war to date.   (It was at Arras that two of our Box Hill fallen – William Collins and Francis Bartle – were killed.)

However, further north in Flanders, against a well prepared and dug-in enemy, with artillery, machine guns, gas and now aircraft, the gains were minimal – at best just a few thousand yards from the original front line to capture the elevated land at Passchendaele.

Meanwhile a combination of long term intense shelling and appalling weather turned the battlefield in a quagmire leading to the loss of many men without trace in the way which we have just heard.

The conditions were so bad that one senior officer, Sir Lancelot Kiggell is reported to have said on seeing the battlefield – ‘Good God, did we send men to fight in that?’

Indeed they did.   Men were literally lost in it as in the famous picture of the Canadian machine gunners at Passchendaele


A recent art installation in Trafalgar Square took this image further and showed a soldier sculpted from the Flanders earth sitting under a dripping pipe – slowly being reduced back to mud.

It is impossible not to think of the words from the book of Genesis used at funeral services –  earth to earth, ashes to ashes, dust to dust, ‘for dust thou art, and unto dust shalt thou return’ (Gen 3:19).

We emerge from dust to have form and features and a name.  In war, the form and the features and the names were lost.

That process of drowning in mud, of being lost is exactly what we are trying to reverse at remembrance.

This week I attended a service in Westminster Abbey.  As I left, I took a moment to stand in front of the Tomb of the Unknown Warrior – that represents all of those who are lost into the mire of Flanders.

Unknown warrior

In response, I wrote these lines

Leaving in the dead of night
The clanging floor opens suddenly
Upon a gory brimming well
Into which I figure had been poured
The blood of a million men.
Shocked still, I bow my head and pray
That this dark slab might form a way
By which their many scattered souls should climb
To the one perpetual light


We remember the names

Dragging them out of the mud

And we tell their stories and bring them to life in the present.

We have the remarkable story of Leonard Arthur Morley whose body was lost for almost 100 years when he was killed in an action on the 18th of October 1914 in a field close to the village of Beaucamps-Ligney in Northern France.  Here it remained unmarked until its discovery in 2009.

Archaeologists, military historians and geneticists combined to literally and figuratively re-member him.  Using regimental records and DNA evidence to identify him. Putting back together his body and his identity. And so we have added him to our memorial here as he was born on Box Hill.

I am indebted to Lenka Cathersides and her work with the Dorking Museum for this and the next story.

Francis Bartle never lived here in box Hill but in Bermondsey in London.  It was his widow Elsie who moved here after she re-married widower Herbert Mitchell on the 22nd of November 1922 at St Michael’s church in Betchworth. Herbert was a gamekeeper and the couple came to live at Keepers Cottage, Box Hill Road, Tadwood, Surrey.

That we have Francis’s name here is a result of Elsie wanting to remember him.

Francis is in our present because of the continuing love that Elsie had for him.

This is in striking parallel to the re-membering of Jesus which we do at every Eucharist when we combine as the body of Christ to remember Jesus as he commanded us to do and so bring him to life in the present.

This work that we do researching these lives and bringing them back to life is important

It reminds us that behind each one of these names was a real person – loved and loving – with a family and friends.

It reminds us that these lives were all important.

That every life is important, that every life makes a difference

So we make an effort to remember them lest they be forgotten

We remember lest we forget the importance of what we do for others

We remember lest we forget the barbarous savagery which we human beings can meet out to one another

As we know from recent experiences in the Ukraine and in Yugoslavia, that only a few angry words separate the peace which we now enjoy from the atrocities of which we have heard.

We remember lest we forget the lessons that they learned, and learned the hard way

–       The unending folly of man

–       The futility of war

–       The importance of sacrifice to our way of life

–       The joy of peace

And so today we pray that they may rest in peace – but never be forgotten.


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It’s not the end of the world!


Proper 26 Year A


Micah 3:5-12

1 Thess 2:9-13

Matthew 4:1-14



May my words be in the name of the living and loving God whom we know as Father, Son and Holy Spirit. Amen

It’s good to be back!  Almost two years have passed since I last stood in this pulpit

A lot seems familiar; a lot seems to have changed

Frankly, I have been filled with a degree of trepidation about coming back

What will be people’s expectations of me?

Will I live up to them?

You have a new Rector – taller than me, thinner than me, a better golfer, a better singer – he even plays guitar!

What is going to be my role here in the new United Benefice – how is it all going to work?

You will see that I have gained a Miss World sash – my priestly stole

But I am here today as a Deacon – Harry is the presiding priest.  A Deacon stands to the right of the celebrant and that seems appropriate as I shall try to be Harry’s right-hand man, as indeed Peter was to Jesus.

My feelings of unease have been exacerbated as I have been physically disconnected from the Parish – working and worshiping first in St Mary’s Ewell and then in Epsom and Langley Vale

The diaconate year which I had intended to use to get to know our community better has seen me getting to know you less and others more

But as I look around I see lots of familiar faces (good) and some new people (even better)

I am very aware that there are a number of missing faces – a few important people have died in the last year

This is the season of Remembrance – when we remember those whom we have lost

I have been away for a few days and I attended a requiem mass for All Souls during the week at the Anglican church of St Mark in Florence – when you are abroad on holiday it is a great thing to seek out the local Anglican church and go along.

Despite being Anglican, this service was more Catholic than the Pope’s slippers and the highlight of the liturgy was the censing of a symbolic catafalque (a coffin draped in a black pall) while the choir sang in paradisum from Faure’s requiem – it was deeply moving and as the priest read the list of names from his community I added my own – Bob Ellison, Anne Banks, Ethel Jobber, Joyce Hulf, Robert Hunter, Tessa Bridges and most recently Derek Smith, from my own family, my uncle John Jefferies Stratton, my former boss, Georges van Erck

As the incense rose I was in no doubt that they were indeed in paradise

So I had rather assumed that we would be celebrating the lives of the saints this Sunday and I would be preaching about the three great saints of this benefice – St Andrew the first called, his brother Simon Peter, the rock upon whom the church is built and the Blessed Virgin Mary – the mother of God and a constant presence in Jesus’s life.

That this would be a festival occasion

But instead we have the lectionary for the end of the world

I began to wonder is there in this some subliminal message in this – about me being a false prophet – a phoney messiah

How are we to interpret this talk of wars and rumours of wars?   Are Harry and I not to get along?

This didn’t make it any easier to think about coming back!

As usual in preparing some words in the Gospel jumped out at me.

Jesus is asked by his disciples ‘when will this happen, and what will be the sign of your coming and of the end of the age?’

He answers: ‘this gospel of the kingdom will be preached in the whole world as a testimony to all nations, and then the end will come.’

The Gospel will be preached to the whole world – in Greek, hole te oikounmene – the whole of the inhabited world – before the end of the world will come.

Two things: first that is quite a tall order – ‘the whole of the inhabited world’ means absolutely everybody must hear the Gospel.  That is still a long way from happening now.  (How many Chinese have heard the Gospel?).  So Matthew is not saying the end of the world is around the corner – there is a lot of work to do before the kingdom of heaven can be established in all the world.

Secondly, he is saying it is through spreading the Good News of Christ that the new messianic age is brought in.

Indeed, these words echo the words from the Great Commission in Chapter 28 at the end of Matthew’s Gospel where he sends his disciples out

‘Therefore, go and make disciples of all nations, baptising them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.’ (Mt 28:19-20)

‘Surely, I am with you always, to the very end of the age’

So Jesus is actually saying: ‘I am already here.  I will remain with you.  There is no need to wait for a second coming.  Focus instead on the Gospel and letting people know the Good News that I have brought.

Well this may be a bit surprising but I think we can take some very positive things out of it.

Yes, we are all going to die and the world will at some point end – but not yet!

Instead there is work to be done now – we do not know when we will die or when the world will end which means that we should always be prepared for it.  Live each day as if it is our last – treat everyone as if it the last time that we will see them.

I was told in training that we should treat each Eucharist as if it was our first, our last and our only and I think that is a great lesson for life more generally.

Secondly, we must work to spread the Gospel of Christ – just like Paul working night and day to preach the gospel of God.  But before we can do that we need to work out what the Gospel is for us.

For me, the Gospel is the love of God as revealed in the teaching, death and resurrection of Jesus Christ.

The teaching is centred on the great commandments of love that you will have heard in church last week – to love the Lord your God with all your heart and all soul your and all your strength and secondly to love your neighbour as yourself

The death of Christ is the example of self-denying self-sacrifice which is at the heart of Christian discipleship it is also a sign of the intimate relationship between the creator of the universe and us – who sent his son ‘to be born of a woman and to die upon a cross’

Finally, the resurrection is the story of the love which never dies – that there is life and hope to be found from God even in the darkest places and above all that we should not fear death but look forward to the singing of the angels in Paradise.

‘For I am with you always to the very end of the age.’

And so my hope is that I can serve you and serve Christ by making his Gospel and his presence known in these three communities which we serve.

You will note that it is three communities.  One of the things they teach you in a Curacy is how to appear to be in two places at once but no one can do three (except perhaps a Bishop?).

So not only does Harry need me but we need you – to be a Christian presence in the communities in which you live.

I will strive to be a Rock to Harry and to you as Peter was to Christ in building the church in these villages.

I will call upon you as Andrew called others and expect you in turn to invite and call the members of your communities to hear and live the Good News of Jesus Christ.

Perhaps above all I will strive to make the presence of Christ known in the world through his Holy Word and in the celebration of His Holy Eucharist – where we meet together sharing one bread and one cup in the name of our crucified Lord, who is with us always, ‘to the very end of the age’.


Sermon delivered by Revd Christopher Hancock at St. Mary’s Headley, 5th November, 2017 on the occasion of his licensing to the Benefice. 

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Breaking News – The Word on the Hill is Back

This morning, 5th November, 2017, Christopher Hancock was licensed as Assistant Curate to the United Benefice of of St Mary’s Headley with St Andrew’s Box Hill and St Peter’s Walton on the Hill.  His sermons and other reflections together with news for the United Benefice will again appear on this page


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Slow burning bush – what is God calling you to do?

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Remembrance Sermon 2016

You can read here my effort for 2016


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Praying for Parish of Headley with Box Hill 

In Guildford Cathedral this morning and was delighted to be praying for all my friends in Headley with Box Hill as the parish was remembered in Diocesan prayers today. 

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Reflection for Bible Sunday

Posted on accurateslife.wordpress.com

Reflection on Bible Sunday

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Transforming Lepers – Transforming Lives (Sermon by Christopher Hancock on Luke 17:11-19)

Sermon on Luke 17:11-19; 2 Kings 5:1-3, 7-15c

See also my blog for St Martin’s Epsom   https://acurateslife.wordpress.com/

I feel I am beginning to know something of what it is like to be a leper.

As you may have noticed I have been regularly wearing my dog collar and walking around Epsom.  I have been wearing it when I need to (when I am explicitly on church business saying morning and evening prayer, conducting pastoral visits and the like) and when I don’t – when going to the Post Office, Ryman’s, Staples, Maplin, Greggs, McDonald’s, various Public Houses – you will form an impression of the sort of person I am from the places I frequent.  A busy person who doesn’t have much time for lunch but likes beer and gadgets and Post-Its.

Why am I doing this? – my children often ask me this.

I confess to mixed motives.  It took me the best part of five years to get ordained, jumping through numerous ecclesiastical hoops, completing dozens of essays, and filling in countless forms – I feel I have earned it.

Secondly, I like wearing a uniform – I miss my school uniform – I like to know what I am wearing when I get up in the morning.  I don’t like choices – even deciding which tie to wear can cause me great irritation.

Finally, and most importantly, it is a form of easy, low impact evangelism – both for the Gospel and for the Church of England.

Indeed, before my ordination both Andrew, Bishop of Guildford, and Paul Bryer, Archdeacon of Dorking, specifically asked me to wear my collar as much as possible.


By being seen to be a normal person doing normal things I am hopefully helping to remove some of the pre-conceptions that people have about the church of England and its priests.  To transform people’s beliefs


And I know this is a genuine issue– I can tell because of the reactions I get – and this is where the leprosy parallel comes in.


Women with children often move their push chairs to the other side of the pavement – I like to think it is out of respect – I fear it is because they assume that a man dressed in a collar is likely to be dangerous to their children.


Muslim men will also physically move away from me which is quite amusing.  Am I for them Haram – unclean – or am I the representation of a Crusader?  Something to be feared either way.

Children stare and parents take them by the arm as if I were some unfortunate

Some people cross themselves – what is that about?  I am not an undertaker or a vampire.


That people behave so strangely suggests there is indeed a problem.   Hopefully, the more they see me the less odd it will be and the more that they will think about the second part of the soft evangelism.

Because by being seen I am hopefully making people think about God – even for just a moment.  To think about what they are doing in life and why – to have a sense that they are a small but important part of something much bigger.  To remember to count their blessings and acknowledge their infirmity.


And I can see that also works – I can see that from the way that some people smile at me and some people refuse to meet my eye and look away – some people have a problem with God – I would love to know why …

To do that I would need to stop and talk to them – to get to know them as people.  But that is getting harder as we have fewer full time priests with the time to meet people where they are.


When I was reading the lectionary for this morning and in particular as I thought about Naaman and these 10 lepers I came to see that the Church of England itself is in danger of becoming a leper in its own community.


Increasingly shunned from hospitals and schools, even the leadership of the Church talks about it being in slow and ineleuctable decline as if it had a terminal and incurable illness.

Well, perhaps – and certainly if the Priesthood of the Church hide themselves away and if the management of the Church gives up on its position in society and builds smaller and smaller colonies for a smaller and smaller group of increasingly homogenous believers then the end is certain.

But I am not happy with that and I doubt you are either.


So what can we learn from these bible stories of healing that may be relevant for the Church of England that it might be healed and given new life?


This is after all the challenge from the Bishop of Guildford with which we are wrestling at the moment to respond to his call for a Diocesan Mission Strategy – that we look to transform our church so that it can transform the lives of others

And I think we can indeed learn from this morning’s stories of miraculous healing – from Naaman and from the 10 lepers.

First there is the all-important point of contact – of transmission of the Gospel:  for Naaman the story of Elisha comes from a captive slave girl – even the most unlikely people can be evangelists.

Each of us can be the one who calls others to God.  Indeed each of us should do this.  How many people have you invited to join us in church today?  Just imagine if we had all brought one extra person with us.


How does Jesus meet the Samaritan leper?  He gets out and meets the people – he travels from Galilee to travel to Jerusalem and meets the lepers on the way.  We need to keep doing that – getting out and meeting people where they are.


Then there is the question of what we do, how we receive the Gospel – what do we do with it?.

For Naaman it is obedience, humility – recognising that he does not have all the answers.  He is healed by bathing in the river Jordan – the rivers of Damascus do not cut it.  He has to be obedient to the word of God’s prophet Elisha, move out of his comfort zone and try something new.

Part of our transformation may lie in understanding what we can do ourselves and for what we need assistance from others.  That we may need to move out of our comfort zone and ask for help.


Next the transformation process does not need to be difficult.  There is no need for complex ritual or liturgy.  Whether for Naaman or the lepers it is just a question of hearing God’s word for us and doing it.  Of listening to God and reacting.


That does not mean to say that we ignore tradition and what has gone before.  Jesus reminds the cleansed lepers that they need to see the priests as prescribed by the law of ancient law of Israel – read it for yourselves in Leviticus 13 and 14.  It’s a bit grim so you might want to save it to read until after lunch.


Finally, for the healed there is joy and thanksgiving.  In Luke’s story it is the Samaritan Leper who comes back and says thank you – he rejoices – eucharizon in the Greek – the same word as our Eucharist – the celebration of our salvation through union with God in Jesus Christ – a celebration in which we shall shortly share in our communion.

And so his cleansing is moved to a deeper spiritual level because he has fully received his healing – in his heart as well as in his body.  The Samaritan allows Christ to transform his view of the world, of how he sees himself in life.  Ultimately, to feel the joy of being loved by God in Jesus Christ.

It is interesting and perhaps encouraging that even Jesus only converts one in ten of those whom he heals.  That then is the target for us – that we make a lasting impression on one in ten of those who touch this place in the course of a year.

For we know that if we can but plant this mustard seed of faith in the hearts of a few others with that faith they themselves can move mountains.

Because at the heart of both healings is simple faith – of understanding that we all sit under God who loves us.


So what then are the lessons for us?

  1. To get out and meet people – to offer them to come and see.
  2. To submit to the will of God in honesty and humility – to get out of our comfort zones – acknowledging that we may need help to see through his mission for us
  3. To honour tradition but keep it simple – there is no need to reinvent the wheel
  4. Above all to allow ourselves to be transformed so that we may transform others

And what might that transformation look like?

Well let me share a vision that I have had

In my three months here I have seen that this church is formed from many different groups and constituencies, different strands of faith if you will.

If we can agree on a common purpose for our work here then these fibres can be woven together to form a great rope, a hawser that we can use to drag the super-tanker that is the Church of England – to drag it closer to the people whom it serves – to move it faster than it ever believed possible – to turn the talk of decline to rejoicing for growth

How best to do that you must decide but you will see some ideas starting to take shape on the board at the back of church – for me it seems that doing more with the many children of this Parish is very likely to be a part of that vision.

I encourage you to share your ideas either by writing on the lovely multicolour Post-Its or by speaking with me, or Nick or the Church wardens

And my prayer is that, by uniting these many strands into a single great cable, we may in turn draw open the very gates of heaven that through them the people of this Parish may enter into the kingdom of God.

That would be a transforming church indeed.  Amen

Sermon preached at St Martin’s, Epsom, by Christopher Hancock, 9th October, 2016

Collect for the Guildford Diocesan Mission Strategy
Transforming Church – Transforming Lives

God of our salvation, you sent your Son to draw all people into your abundant life:
grant that your church, empowered by your Spirit,
may be the instrument of your transforming purposes in the world,
that all may know your power  to heal and to save.
Through Jesus Christ our Lord. AMEN

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