Doreen Gordon ‘retired’ from her position as Churchwarden at the Annual Meeting in April, and friends and church colleagues joined her for a meal at the Hinderton Arms on Monday 29th May.

The story behind the hymn:
Eternal Father Strong to Save With Sea Sunday in mind, and also people’s holidays on water.
We offer this good hymn for July…

Eternal Father, strong to save,
Whose arm hath bound the restless wave, 
Who bidd’st the mighty ocean deep
Its own appointed limits keep;
Oh, hear us when we cry to Thee,
For those in peril on the sea! 
Most Holy Spirit! Who didst brood
Upon the chaos dark and rude,
And bid its angry tumult cease,
And give, for wild confusion, peace;
Oh, hear us when we cry to Thee,
For those in peril on the sea! 
O Christ! Whose voice the waters heard
And hushed their raging at Thy word,
Who walked'st on the foaming deep,
And calm amidst its rage didst sleep;
Oh, hear us when we cry to Thee,
For those in peril on the sea!
O Trinity of love and power!
Our brethren shield in danger's hour; 
From rock and tempest, fire and foe, 
Protect them wheresoe’er they go;
Thus evermore shall rise to Thee
Glad hymns of praise from land and sea.

The author of these words, William Whiting, was an Anglican clergyman in Winchester, which is hardly a seaside town. Yet Whiting had not only grown up by the sea, but had nearly died in it. As a young man he had been on a ship that got caught in a violent storm, and afterwards he felt certain it was only God who had saved the ship from sinking that night. 
Some years later, as headmaster of the Winchester College Choristers’ School, Whiting was approached by a student in distress. The student was due to sail to the USA, and was simply terrified at the thought of 3000 miles of ocean. To try and reassure the student, Whiting decided to share his experience. And so he wrote this poem, basing the description of the power and fury of the sea on Psalm 107. 
It is not known if it helped the nervous student or not, but within a year the poem had become a hymn, and sailed into the influential first edition of Hymns Ancient and Modern of 1861. 
Another Anglican clergyman, John B Dykes, wrote the music for it. He was already a successful composer, with 300 hymns to his name. Dykes named this tune ‘Melita’, after an old name for Malta, where St Paul was once shipwrecked. Whiting released two more versions of the lyrics, in 1869 and in 1874. 
During the rest of the 19th century the hymn became a favourite with the Royal Navy and the United States    Navy. Other Services adapted it, including the Royal Marines, the Royal Air Force, the British Army, and the United States Coast Guard. Above all, it became known as the Royal Navy Hymn.
Well into the 20th century, it was the favourite hymn of President Franklin Delano Roosevelt, who had served as Secretary of the Navy during the Second World War. In 1963 Eternal Father was played by the Navy Band, as President John F. Kennedy's body was carried up the steps of the U.S. Capitol to lie in state. (Kennedy had been a PT boat commander in World War II.)
More recently, Eternal Father made a ‘guest appearance’ in the Hollywood blockbuster Titanic, and is also often chosen by ship’s chaplains for use in civilian services at sea. 


Not much of a doubter, really

It’s a strange nickname for a man whose burning faith in Jesus took him, so some accounts say, all the way to India to found a Christian Church there (Mar Thoma). But ‘Doubting Thomas’ he is, and in one way it’s good to have someone in the early band of disciples who represents all those of us who tend to find unquestioning faith difficult.

His tendency to ask the searching, even perhaps sarcastic question, can be found in the Gospel (see John 14:6), but his reputation was set for ever on the first Easter night. Thomas was not in the Upper Room when the risen Jesus appeared for the first time to the apostles, and when they told him what had happened he was unimpressed. “Unless I see the mark of the nails in his hands and put my fingers in his wounds I will not believe.”
A week later Jesus appeared again, and this time not only was Thomas there, but Jesus singled him out for special attention. “Come on,” he said, “here are the wounds. Do not doubt, but believe.” That was the end of the Doubter, who fell to his knees to exclaim, “My Lord and my God!” 

Jesus observed that he had seen and believed. There would be many in the future, He said, who would not have such evidence set before them, but yet would believe. Among them, I like to think, are many Thomases, people for whom faith (in the sense of believing propositions) is seldom easy. I suspect Thomas’s favourite saying of Jesus was “Seek and you will find.” It’s not a bad one to have in mind this year on St Thomas’s Day, 3rd July.

                                                                                                                              Canon David Winter

Are we there yet?’

This is a familiar cry from a child frustrated by a long journey, impatient to be at the destination. With the school holidays soon upon us, it’s good to be reminded of Psalm 121. This is one of those psalms (Ps 120-134) used by the Jewish pilgrims journeying to Jerusalem for the great festivals. 
There were real dangers for these Jewish pilgrims on their journey. They could slip on the road, there was the threat of wild animals and they had to suffer hot days and cold nights. On the Christian journey we are tempted by ‘the world, the flesh and the devil’, as well as dealing with those who mess up our lives and our questions about God’s goodness or existence.
So where do we look for help? ‘I lift up my eyes to the hills – where does my help come from?’ (Psalm 121:1). Ironically, the Jews would look to the hills, where pagan worship was practiced. Even today, we can go to the wrong places for help eg. horoscopes rather than the Scriptures; work colleagues or friends, rather than fellow Christians. We can also miss where to look for help: ‘My help comes from the Lord, the Maker of heaven and earth’ (2).
Like the Jewish pilgrims, we need to recognise that only God has the power to keep us on the road. Even when God seems silent in our suffering, He is ‘watching over us’ (5). On our journey He ‘will keep us from harm’ (7) and ‘watch over our coming and going’ (8). 
‘The Lord bless you and keep you; the Lord make His face to shine on you and be gracious to you; the Lord turn His face towards you and give you peace.’

(Numbers 6: 24-6).