Holy Week Reflections

Holy Saturday – in the Grave

Read: Luke 23:50-56

  • What, if anything, stands out to you?

Listen: Stations of the Cross by Malcolm Guite 13 and 14 click on the numbers to get the audio


Artwork: two choices today:

‘The Deposition’ Ugolino de Neriolook close up at the faces of Mary and Jesus 


or Michelangelo’s ‘Pieta’ sculpture (click on the titles to see the paintings)


  • Both these pieces depict the raw emotion of a Mother with her dead son. Can you feel the sorrow through the artwork?


Prayer Points:

  • As we come to the end of the week’s reflections, why not commit yourself afresh to the Lord? You could use this prayer – The Methodist Covenant Prayer which Methodists repeat every year in committing themselves afresh to the Lord.


I am no longer my own but yours.

Put me to what you will,

rank me with whom you will;

put me to doing, put me to suffering;

let me be employed for you or laid aside for you,

exalted for you or brought low for you.

Let me be full, let me be empty,

let me have all things, let me have nothing.

I freely and wholeheartedly yield all things

to your pleasure and disposal.

And now, glorious and blessed God,

Father, Son and Holy Spirit,

you are mine and I am yours.

So be it.

And the covenant made on earth,

let it be ratified in heaven.





Good Friday – The Crucifixion

Read: Mark 15:21-41 perhaps 2 or 3 times

  • What, if anything, stands out to you?
  • Imagine yourself in the text, at the foot of the cross, how does it make you feel?

Listen: Stations of the Cross by Malcolm Guite 11 and 12 click on the number to get the audio

Painting: ‘St John of the Cross’ by Salvador Dali Click on the title to see the painting


  • This painting was inspired by a drawing, kept in the Convent of the Incarnation in Avila, Spain, which was done by Saint John of the Cross after he had seen a vision of Christ during a powerful spiritual experience. Dali talks of the unity of the world in Christ through his own interpretation. What does it speak of to you?


Song: Strange way by Martyn Joseph

  • A cleverly written song on the Crucifixion, have a listen to the lyrics and see what stands out to you and think about why.

Prayer Points

  • We sometimes talk of nailing our burdens or our sin to the cross. What do you need to let go of and give to the Lord right now? Lift it to him in prayer.
  • Pray for those who are persecuted for their Christian faith around the world.
  • Pray for those you know struggling in their faith



Maundy Thursday – The Last Supper

Read: Luke 22: 7-30 and/or John 13:1-17

  • What, if anything, stands out to you? 

Listen: Stations of the Cross by Malcolm Guite 9 and 10, click on the number to hear the audio


Painting: ‘Journey with Jesus’ by He Qi click on the title to see the image


  • There is much symbolism and many references in this picture, what stands out to you?
  • Where would you be in this picture?


Prayer Points:

  • Focus on the line from Luke ‘…my blood is poured out for you…’ Spend some time thanking God for the amazing sacrifice he made for you.
  • Pray for those in positions where service is key, perhaps the emergency services, medical staff or armed forces.
  • Pray for those who serve you personally. At home, work, church or in the community…




Wednesday – Betrayal

Read: John 13: 18-30, perhaps 2 or 3 times.

  • What, if anything, stands out to you?
  • How do you feel about Judas? Was he purely evil? Was he deceived by the Devil? Do you think he had a choice about what he went to do?


Listen: Stations of the Cross by Malcolm Guite 7 and 8click on the numbers to get the audio.


Painting: ‘The Bound lamb (Agnus dei)’ by Francisco de Zubaran click on the title to see the picture

  • The image of Jesus as the pure and innocent lamb is very powerful, especially as depicted here tied and bound and completely helpless. Does this help you to focus on the idea of Christ as a pure sacrifice? Or on the idea of betrayal? Have you ever betrayed Jesus?


Prayer Points:

  • Lift up to the Lord any situations where you feel you have let him down, perhaps even betrayed him, seek his forgiveness.
  • Pray for those who are helpless in our wider world, for example those starving in the current famine in East Africa. (Tearfund has some prayer points here)
  • Pray for those close to you who feel helpless in a situation they face


Visit: Pop into our Easter Encounter Space at TRINITY Southover, open all day today from 10am – 10pm. Explore the Easter story through the prayer stations.

And/or Join us for worship and prayer 8-9pm at TRINITY Southover




Tuesday – The Greatest Commandment

Read: Matthew 22: 34-40, perhaps 2 or 3 times.

  • What, if anything, stands out to you?
  • How important are these commandments to you in your life? In what ways do you show the love of Christ in your daily life?


Listen: Stations of the Cross by Malcolm Guite 5 and 6(click on the numbers of get the audio)

Painting: ‘God Hold Me’ by Charlie Mackesy

Available here but you need to scroll down to item 74



  • Can you imagine yourself in this painting?
  • Can you think of a time when you have experienced God holding you in this way? Perhaps you might need to experience this now in a situation you face?


Article: Holy Week in an Unholy World


  • Does this article resound with you?


Prayer Points:

  • As above, imagine God holding you in an embrace like the painting. Can you invite him into a particular situation you are facing?
  • For situations in the world that need God’s embrace more than ever right now, for example for those grieving in Syria
  • For someone you know who needs to feel God’s embrace afresh today


Visit: Pop into our Easter Encounter Space at TRINITY Southover, open all day today from 10am – 10pm. Explore the Easter story through the prayer stations.




Monday – Cleansing of the Temple

 Read: Mark 11: 15 – 19, perhaps 2 or 3 times.

  • What, if anything, stands out to you?
  • What are the things that make you angry? Why not spend some time thinking about a time when you were angry, frustrated or annoyed recently. Spend some time reflecting on how Jesus might have reacted to that situation?

Listen: Stations of the Cross by Malcolm Guite 3 and 4Click on the numbers to go to the audio.

Illustration: Modern interpretation of Christ driving the money changers from the temple’ by Anthony Freda/Daniel Zollinger (click on the title to see the image)

  • What is your instant reaction to this picture? What emotions does it raise in you? Do you think it is fair as a modern interpretation?

Article: Following Jesus Means Being Political and Advocating for “The Least of These”

Following Jesus Means Being Political and Advocating for “The Least of These”

  • Does this article resound with you?
  • Does following Jesus mean being political to you?

Prayer Points:

  • If you feel led to do so, pray into the situations you thought about above where you experienced anger.
  • Pray for an issue of injustice, for example those who suffer because of race, religion or sexuality.
  • For those you know who struggle with unresolved anger


All God’s Creatures

One of the most confusing aspects for me as a Christian is to reconcile our attitude towards animals with God’s word and purpose, which I believe is for the whole of creation. There are many reasons why Christians may be ‘spiritually blind’ concerning this subject, one of which is uncertainty in interpretation of animal behaviour.

For instance, some scientists declare we cannot know for sure whether animals, such as pigs, feel ‘happy’ or ‘sad’, unless we can prove it and explain it in terms of human emotions. Therefore it is acceptable to keep pigs in ‘unhappy’ conditions, which are inhumane.  The arrogance of this stance is responsible for animal suffering on an unimaginable scale. If we accept we are imperfect, surely we should accept our science is imperfect.

Jumping Cow
A ‘happy’ cow jumping for joy after being released from winter barn



One of many examples of our imperfect science is revealed by the commonly used idiom: ‘He has a memory like a fish’. The belief that fish only remember for 3-4 seconds has exonerated us from keeping them in confined places where they may experience frustration and stress. It seems fish have good memories, according to one Cambridge researcher who describes them as ‘‘amazing and intelligent”. http://www.cam.ac.uk/research/news/memory-like-a-fish

Both modern scientific understanding and our own experience demonstrate that animals are similar to us in many ways. Some create valued, life-long, exclusive relationships with other animals, they protect what is important to them, they sacrifice themselves for their young, they think and feel, they experience pleasure and pain and mourn their dead.


OK, maybe we cannot be absolutely sure the caged animal suffers as we would; its ‘apparent’ dejected frustrated manner could mean something else.  Surely the response to this uncertainty would be to give these creatures the benefit of the doubt and to ask oneself: ‘would I want to be treated like this? Would I let my dog be treated like this?’ Surely the answer would be ‘no’.

In fact, ‘’if one person is unkind to an animal it is considered to be cruelty, but where a lot of people are unkind to animals, especially in the name of commerce, the cruelty is condoned and, once large sums of money are at stake, will be defended to the last by otherwise intelligent people.” (Ruth Harrison, Animal Machines)


Of course, in the end, we are consumers responsible for our actions. If we choose to buy intensively farmed food, knowing how it is produced, are we not insulting God?

Pope Francis’ Encyclical Laudato Si has brought the problem of animal welfare into the public domain, and the Times reported in 2013:


‘There may be no other single human activity that has a bigger impact on the planet than the raising of livestock’.


Many believe the real solution to minimising human pressure on the environment lies in agriculture and reducing consumption of animal products, which will also result in better health as well as improving the lives of the poor in underdeveloped countries.

Maybe these concerns for humanity will challenge our ‘spiritual blindness’. But I wish we were motivated for the right reasons:  that we acknowledge the cruelty and suffering we inflict on animals through our ignorance and apathy.  Maybe all we have to ask is ‘what would Jesus do?’ and our duty of care would be revealed.



Caroline Hodges
Creation Care Team


The adoration of the crucified risen and ascended Lord Jesus

Imagine a dark church at 3 o’clock in the morning, you have been woken from sleep by the church clock. You struggle into wakefulness and strike a match which shines out into the church and you light a candle that is placed before a simple wooden cross.

As the stark image of the cross seems to flow and grow, filling your field of vision, the words of Isaiah 6  ” I saw the Lord high and lifted up” come into your mind as the image of the cross sparks the imagination.

However, the image of the cross does not support a vision of God clothed in fiery royal finery, seated on a majestic throne, but of a king stripped naked and bloody with skin stripped off by flogging and hands pierced by cruel nails.

Isaiah’s vision produces holy fear and underlines our need for repentance in the face of a thrice Holy God.

However, the vision of Jesus lifted high on the cross fills our hearts with love for a God who left his throne in the heavenly places to suffer and die the most horrible and degrading death for everyone who puts their trust in Him. The glory of the cross is a very strange sort of glory. Jesus knew that he had to be lifted up, like the serpent in the wilderness, then He would draw all people to Himself.

Philippians2:6-11  is a wonderful picture of Jesus as the obedient son of God leaving the majesty of heaven and the perpetual love of the trinity of persons of which he was fully part. He laid aside all the joys and majesty of that union to become fully human, suffering everything that we suffer, including death, even death on a cross.

However, the death or Jesus was followed by His glorious resurrection and ascension. On the cross, our broken nature and our lives which end in death were totally transformed, by the power of what Jesus did on the cross. We have been transferred from the kingdom of this world of sin and death to the Kingdom of Christ and to life in a new world were Jesus reigns as God and King. The dividing wall that separated us from God has been broken down and we have free access into the throne room of grace.

Once we give our lives to Christ we are given everything that Jesus achieved, by His death on the cross.

Our lives which were once full of pride and totally obsessed with self, have become the place where love flows out to all around, helping to bring in the kingdom of Christ, until our physical death calls us to life with Him.

We can then continue in adoration, love and worship of our wonderful crucified raised and glorified Jesus Christ in His new restored creation; a unified heaven and earth.



Ian Hempshall


Trees For Life

I wonder if you, like me, feel guilty about flying to foreign parts for a holiday? I hate to think of the damage done to our environment and the ozone layer by aeroplanes. Friends of mine have taken the pledge not to fly any more, for this reason.

But I do love exploring different places, and this late summer I was drawn back to Crete, the second largest island in the Mediterranean. Not just for sun, sea and sandy beaches, you understand, but because I love the wild rugged landscape, the history, the people, their traditional ways of life, their generosity to strangers.

You can sit on a hillside looking out over olive groves towards a glimpse of sea, and hear nothing at all, except perhaps the distant tinkle of bells round the necks of foraging goats. Or spot a local Cretan gathering food from his patch of garden, fruit from the trees, or hay from the tiny fields.

On this trip we came across something extraordinary. Driving from Chania towards Omalos in the White Mountains, we saw a sign pointing to “ National Botanic Garden.” Intrigued, we followed the winding road higher and still higher, until we arrived at the entrance, and decided to visit. It was a hot sunny day, but there was a delightful cooling breeze. As we parked and entered, the first thing we saw was a huge gaunt olive tree, probably hundreds of years old, with its central trunk hollowed out, burnt away by fire. A powerful symbol, indeed. (see picture)

Burnt Olive Tree With Still living Green Shoots

We learned that the Botanical Park and Garden had been created after a disastrous forest fire which had devastated several acres of the hillsides in 2003. As the leaflet we were given says, the area was reborn from its ashes. The aim of the garden is to educate visitors about how important trees and plants are to our wellbeing.  We were offered water, sunhats and stout walking sticks to help us round a 5km trail through the forest,  which gave us shade and intense visual pleasure as we gazed at the wonderful and amazing variety of shapes and colours of trees and plants from habitats all around the world.  I thought of the lines in Andrew Marvell’s poem The Garden: “Annihilating all that’s made, to a green thought, in a green shade”.

As we wandered around in wonder, it was very interesting to observe others too, carefully reading labels on the plants, which named each one, its country of origin, and its uses. Many were medicinal plants, herbs and trees, for example the Willow, from which we obtain aspirin. Such huge variety of leaf shapes, brightly coloured flowers, tree trunk markings and scents…

Our leaflet said : “Walking around the Botanical Park and Gardens of Crete offers spiritual tranquillity and visual pleasure, while getting acquainted with flora and their compositions”. For me personally, it was a reminder of the wonder of God’s creation, and renewed my faith as I silently offered up a prayer of thanks for His goodness to us. Here was an example of spiritual teaching, without any need to preach, because I felt God’s creative presence all around me. And here also was a good example of how to follow God’s instruction to care for his Creation, and to encourage others to do likewise.

Not only spiritual needs were met, but the walk ended in a beautiful restaurant overlooking the wonderful view of the forest and mountains, where all the delicious food came from the gardens, including a fruit drink made from the fruits of trees grown there. The whole experience was very special, and I believe the Botanical Park and Gardens are unique in Europe. So if you are ever in Crete, do visit. Sharing this experience helps ease my conscience about the air flight!


“The Lord God took the man and put him in the Garden of Eden to work it and take care of it” Genesis 2:15

        Shapes of Trees and Leaves                    Tree Trunk Markings





Shirley Darlington
Creation Care Team

Listening to the right voice

Last term I spoke at the 6:30 and encouraged the congregation to think about who they follow (eg: a sports team, band, someone on social media) and then invited them to shout out that thing all at the same time.

The point being that you then couldn’t hear what everyone was saying, which is a bit like life – there are so many voices calling out to us, enticing us to follow them, that it can be hard to know which one to listen to. It might be advertising voices, magazines, celebrities, political voices, social media posts, all speaking to us about what we should do and who we should follow.

I continue to be challenged by this thought. In this day and age it’s getting harder and harder to suss out the right voice to follow, or which one is even telling us the truth, there is so much ‘fake news’ about now (and I shall refrain from commenting on that!).

I think if we are honest, most of us want something to follow, a path, or we want a label. We want to be loved and accepted and those paths or labels we use to help us fit in.  So when we choose to follow things we are actually just looking for, or forming our own identity. What or who we follow, reflects who we are, or who we choose to be, or how we want to be seen. And I feel that now more than ever we need to really take stock of who we are following, what voices are we listening to and taking on board.

Because the real truth is, a truth that can’t be changed, and an identity for all of us… is that God loves us. Every one of us. No matter who we are, what we’ve done or said, we are loved, just as we are. The bible tells us that Jesus gives us the right to become children of God. That can be our true identity if we listen, if we choose to follow him.

But perhaps amidst the babble that is hard to hear, I mean why on earth would anyone choose to follow Jesus’ voice in this day and age? With all that choice? Can he give us as much street cred as an iphone X? Can he get us the best seat in a restaurant ? or make us part of the in crowd?

When I preach I love to leave the listeners with a challenge and I guess that’s what this whole post is – a challenge to you to really think about how you are shaping your identity. What or who influences you? What or who do you spend most time thinking about? Where do you spend your money? Your time? Your energy?

Because most of those voices we hear have an ulterior motive – financial, political, for personal gain; but the voice of Jesus simply wants us to know how loved we are, wants to draw us closer to him and to that ultimate truth. That’s why we should listen to him over any other voice.


Jules Middleton

The Miracle of Dunkirk and the Power of Intercession

Earlier this month we went to the new Lewes cinema, the Depot, which is a fine new building in which to see Dunkirk the movie. It is a dramatized chronicle of the battle, and it was very well portrayed.

May 1940 was a very dark day for the allies as they had been encircled by the German armies and were in danger of total destruction. In fact, there would have been a terrible defeat, apart from 3 incidents which allowed the army to be evacuated by a fleet of naval and little ships which managed to ferry over 338,000 men over the channel in a few days. The three miracles which occurred were Hitler’s order to halt the advance of the German army, a terrible storm over Flanders which prevented the bulk of the German air force taking off, and a flat, calm Channel. So, what caused The miracle of Dunkirk?  Certainly, the whole population of England was motivated to pray, from the King, downwards. However, the story goes deeper, and it started back in 1879, when a young boy was born in a Welsh mining village. The name of the boy was Rees Howells.

Rees was born into the time and place of the Welsh revival, and he had two deep spiritual experiences. One was when he was dying of cholera and he made a total commitment of his life to Jesus. The other was when he experienced the Holy Spirit, not just as an influence which came over the revival meetings, but as a real person, who with the Father and Son shared a deep emotional commitment to their created world. Rees began to actually feel the deep anguish and love which the Godhead felt for their deeply broken creation.

He lived out a life that was really in touch with God, and he slowly learnt the discipline of obedience to what God was saying to Him through the inner promptings of the Holy Spirit. His power grew as an intercessor, first within his local community, then in a wider context in Christian ministry and healing. He went to South Africa, where, under his influence, there was a major spiritual revival.

On his return to this country he founded a Bible school in Wales. He initiated many projects, never asking for any money. He simply prayed to God who always provided the exact amount without any external requests. Very early in the rise of Hitler and his party in Germany, Rees saw him for what he was, an agent of evil and the enemy of the work of Christ all over the world.

Rees saw it as his job to pray and intercede, first of all for peace and, when war was declared, for a quick and peaceful conclusion. However, as events progressed, he saw he must uphold the Christian west and pray for the defeat of Hitler. So, he created a band of like-minded people in his Welsh bible school where they interceded right through the war for many hours of every day, including asking for God’s intervention at Dunkirk.

You can learn much more about his story by reading his biography by Norman Grubb. However, it comes with a warning: you might find it a very deep challenge to your own level of commitment to Christ. I certainly did.

What is Intercession?

Intercession is a form of intensified prayer, which is characterised by three things.

Firstly, an intercessor is deeply identified with the one who is prayed for; they have submerged all their own interests for the needs and suffering of the other.

Secondly, there are tears. Just as Christ wept over Jerusalem, so the intercessor shares the “groanings too deep for words” of the Spirit (Romans 8:26).

Thirdly, there is the gained place of intercession, an inner peace that God has heard and answered the desires of our hearts for that person or situation, and we can turn from intercession to praise and worship of our generous God.

Are you willing to spend time praying for our Church, town and country?

If you feel called to be an intercessor, do read the book. You can contact Letchmi Wall who organises Trinity’s monthly prayer gathering for people who intercede for the church, or Serena Smith who organises the monthly town wide Saturday prayer time.




Ian Hempshall


Love In Action Days

I am really excited about a new initiative that we are going to be running here at TRINITY and I hope you will be too.

As part of ‘Love in Action’ we want to encourage everyone to get outside the walls of the church a bit more and reach out with God’s love to those around us. Love in Action’ is all about sharing the love of Jesus in our communities in practical ways that actually meet a need or bless the community in a relevant way. So this term we’ll be hosting our first ‘Love in Action Day’ as part of our next Connect weekend, on 14 October.

The idea is for a one day event in the community, running 3-4 projects that meet a local need or bless the community in some way, with as many church members taking part as possible, of all ages!

I would love you all to get excited about this event and really think about how you could be a part of it, what could be done in your community for example?

Jeremiah 29:4-7 is a passage I’ve mentioned a few times recently, says this:

This is what the Lord Almighty, the God of Israel, says to all those I carried into exile from Jerusalem to Babylon: “Build houses and settle down; plant gardens and eat what they produce. Marry and have sons and daughters; find wives for your sons and give your daughters in marriage, so that they too may have sons and daughters. Increase in number there; do not decrease. Also, seek the peace and prosperity of the city to which I have carried you into exile. Pray to the Lord for it, because if it prospers, you too will prosper.”

Basically – bless where you are, where God has put you!

So let’s think, what can we do as a church to really meet some local needs? We have a huge resource of people, gifted and skilled in many different areas – how can we put those gifts to use to put our faith into action and make a difference where we are?

More than that, this could really be the start of something, helping us to form new and better relationships with our communities. This will be so important as we develop the TRINITY Centre and the café, how can we start to form and develop relationships locally that might help us grow the building into a community hub? For example, if we want to reach young families is there a project we could do to start to get to know more local young families?

And  let’s remember, this is for all of us! Let me encourage you ALL to get involved. ‘Mission’ and sharing God’s love are not just for the chosen few – we are all called to love one another and to love our neighbour. I know for some of us getting out and about can be tricky but you could still be part of the event by telling people about what we’re doing, suggesting ideas, and praying for all that is going on.

With all this in mind we would love to hear ideas for projects from YOU! You are the people best placed to know what the needs are where you are at.

Have you got a neighbour who needs their garden cleared? or know a family who needs a room redecorating? or got a passion to host a community lunch? or run a kids fun afternoon? We need you to get your thinking caps on and let us know where we could start and what we could do. We’ve got one day to run them but think big and bold!

Send your ideas and thoughts to Jules and we’ll get planning, and meanwhile put the date in your diary…


Jules Middleton

God Is Not Dead

It’s related that once in the life of Martin Luther, his wife Katie came down in the morning and greeted him and she was attired in mourning, she was in black, and Luther said to her, “Why are you wearing mourning?”

She said, “Because God is dead.”
He said, “Nonsense, woman, God isn’t dead.”
She said to him, “Well, if God isn’t dead, why do you act as if He were?” And that was a real rebuke to Martin Luther, the great reformer, the great interpreter of Scripture
. (quoted from DPM weekly E-devotional)

Jesus Christ is very much alive living and living in this world in His church and in individuals who have been born from above, so why do we sometimes act as though he has no hold or influence on us?

Paradoxically, we can only be alive in Christ if we die to self and allow the living Jesus to take control of our minds and bodies. Jesus said, “If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross and follow me. 25 For whoever would save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for my sake will find it. “Matt 16 v24b-25.

St Paul lived this out and he could say, “I have been crucified with Christ and I no longer live, but Christ lives in me. The life I now live in the body, I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me.” Galatians 2:20.

As baptised followers of Jesus we carry with us the wonderful illustration of baptism, where we are taken down into the water, symbolising death and burial of the old selfish nature and we rise up to new life, joining with Jesus in His resurrection.

So in practice how do we live our lives, fully empowered by the living Christ. It is not an easy road, because it is one which involves the suffering of taking up our cross daily. “that I may know Christ and the power of his resurrection, and may share his sufferings, becoming like him in his death, that by any means possible I may attain the resurrection from the dead.” Philippians 3:10-11.

It is a radical decision that involves giving up all our pride, ambition and self-will. It involves giving up control of our lives to the Holy Spirit, to become clean empty vessels through whom the Holy Spirit may flow to a world which is so in need of the love and compassion which the Holy Spirit of Jesus can give working through us.

As we have been learning in our recent sermons it is about being filled daily with the fullness of the Holy Spirit to have the power to live our lives overflowing with the sacrificial love and life-giving power of the living Lord Jesus. This week in the Antioch club we had Neill Stannard, who is starting his training for ordination this autumn, giving his testimony. It was amazing how God had been working in him throughout his life, often through very difficult times, and times of rebellion; God was always there, supplying just the right people and circumstances to lead him on his chosen path, and making a life changing impression on so many people he was in contact with both in his work as a school teacher and in other areas of life like the rugby field.

So, we have a choice, we can live as nominal Christians attending church on Sunday, but living the rest of the week as if God is dead in our lives: or we can live amazing Spirit filled lives with the life of Jesus flowing out to our communities and everyone we meet. Start each day by asking Jesus afresh into your life through the power of His Spirit.


Ian Hempshall


Herbs from home & garden

As part of the Creation Care team I was asked if I would be able to talk to the Monday club on ways to be ‘Greener’ around the home.

I was able to take an extended lunch break from my ‘day job’ just across the road at Anne of Cleves House and Museum, where I am immersed in all things ‘Tudor’. I had recently led some workshops at Lewes Priory Park at the launch of the Priory Trust’s kitchen garden on Medieval Colour and Scent, focussing on dye plants and strewing herbs. This led me to recall the words of Winston Churchill ‘The further back one looks, the further forward one may see’. In other words we can learn from the past. I thought this would be a good opportunity to look at how herbs can be used around the house and garden today as an opportunity to reduce the use of nasty chemicals that go on to pollute the air, waterways and harm the environment.

In days gone by, herbs were central to household economies not just for flavouring and preserving food or for providing medicines but also for jobs around the house and garden. Herbs were incorporated in to roof thatch, they were used to cover floors, to clean, polish and disinfect utensils and to sweeten and purify musty air. It is not just historical interest or nostalgia that makes the idea of using herbs attractive to us today. Herbal dyes are still unsurpassed for subtlety of colour and aromatic herbs contain antiseptic oils useful for cleaning. But beyond this the fresh fragrance of herbs has a way of pushing our thoughts past the strictly utilitarian. To fold sheets scented with lavender water or to polish furniture with sweet marjoram scented wax changes the chore to a pleasure. Perhaps it reminds us of the seasons or gives us a sense of continuity with the past. Whatever the reason herbalists through the ages have told us that fresh sweet scents will lift our spirits and modern research confirms this assertion.

The Psalms tell us that God has given us “herbs for the service of man.” Ps.104:14.

So, what exactly is a herb. Whilst I was studying botany at college we were taught a herb is any seed-bearing plant which does not have a woody stem and dies down to the ground after flowering i.e. herbaceous. For example “the banana plant is the world’s largest herb”. But in general parlance a h

erb is any plant with leaves, seeds, or flowers used for flavouring, food, medicine, or perfume. Usually we think of a relatively small range of plants that are used for culinary purposes such as Thyme, Coriander, Sage, Parsley, Rosemary, Mint, Basil and Chives. Yet John Parkinson’s ‘Herbal’ ( A herbal was a book describing plants and their uses) of 1640 contains  accounts of 3800 herbs. Written herbals were produced in Britain as early as the 10th Century and initially the Medieval Church encouraged scientific enquiry as a means of glorifying and becoming closer to God (and while this attitude was to change as the centuries progressed it is certainly something I could agree with today.) The monasteries became centres for learning and research, cultivating physic gardens and introducing new plants. If you get a chance it is worth going to look at both the Lewes Priory herb garden and the new Medieval Vegetable Garden.

Today the growing of herbs also brings their benefits to the garden. Herb gardens, not only look colourful and are relatively easy to maintain. Many herbs can be grown as companion plants helping to control pests and diseases. Herbs can easily be grown even if you only have a balcony, patio or window box. Many of them will take to being grown on the window sill .Herbs  can be used in cooking, are fantastic in attracting pollinating insects such as bees and hoverflies, and  provide a great nectar source for butterflies and moths. Interestingly although herbs attract ‘good’ insects they can also be used to prevent ‘bad’ ones causing problems.

One of the most important uses of herbs in Tudor times was for Strewing, where herbs would be thrown (strewn)on to rushes or straw used to cover the floors of houses and halls, in place of carpets. As well as smelling nice many herbs could repel insects and some had disinfectant properties.  Some herbs would help to keep flies, moths, and other insects and even mice away. Of course, Strewing of herbs is not practical today, but bunches of herbs can be hung in the kitchen, in wardrobes or placed in draws to keep insects away and to make everywhere smell pleasant.

There are many books on herbs concentrating on culinary or medicinal herbs but here I’d like to look at other ways that God has provided herbs for the service of man.

Below is a list of herbs some are mentioned in the bible, others have religious stories or legends attached but all of them can be put to use in the home today.

Meadow Sweet has a sweet smell and was Elizabeth I’s favourite strewing herb, flowering tops can be put in to draws to scent linen

Lady’s Bedstraw, Light green sprawling fluffy herb with clusters of airy yellow flowers. as the name suggests was used to stuff pillows and mattresses. It kills fleas and the roots also provide a red dye. Mary is said to have prepared the Christ child’s bed with this herb. Thereafter it was known as Our Lady’s Bedstraw, and the formerly white flower-heads turned to a golden hue. “And she gave birth to her firstborn son and wrapped him in bands of cloth, and laid him in a manger. There is quite a lot growing in the South churchyard at Southover .

Bay was used in wealthy households, and was also thought to keep lightening away. Put in flour bin and around dried figs to deter weevils

Tansy, place on shelves or in cupboards to deter  ants, disturb the leaves occasionally to release more scent and produced a good yellow dye. Grown near fruit trees it will deter insects

Mint and Tansy in store cupboards will help to deter mice also repels Mint was well known as being used for flavoring food as it still is today. Some bible experts say mint was among the “bitter herbs” mentioned. Mint was valued for its fresh aroma and sweet taste and often used to flavour meat. Also an important “strewing” herb, mint stems were hung in doorways and thrown on dirt floors to mask the effects of inadequate sanitation. Luke 11:42 “But woe unto you, Pharisees! for ye tithe mint and rue and all manner of herbs, and pass over judgment and the love of God: these ought ye to have done, and not to leave the other undone” 

Penny Royal, a type of low growing mint, also known as fleabane kills insects especially fleas, deters ants and repels ticks along with chamomile it was planted in turf benches, when sat on released their fragrances. You can see a turf bench at the new Lewes priory trust kitchen garden in Priory Park.

Wormwood, In Jeremiah 23: 15 wicked prophets are threatened with wormwood to eat and poisoned water to drink.

Proverbs 5:4 speaks of a woman who is bitter as wormwood and sharp as a two-edged sword.

Wormwood is a strong insect, and moth repellent also helps to repel mice. On the embers of an open fire the smoke leas and lice. Can be used to make a strong household disinfectant, weaker it can be used for an insecticide on older plants. Grown near brassicas it will help to dispel Cabbage White butterflies

Basil, a well-known culinary herbplant grown on the window sill will keep flies away

Sweet woodruff dried leaves under carpets and with linen to deter insects

Hyssop, is fragrant and is the sacred and cleansing herb of the Bible.

Psalms 51:7 is an example of hyssop as a purifying and cleansing herb: “Purge me with hyssop, and I shall be clean; wash me, and I shall be whiter than snow.”

When Jesus hung on the cross he said he was thirst and they held a sponge with vinegar on hyssop to his mouth. John 19:29. I like to use hyssop along with sage, thyme, rosemary and lavender in four Thieves vinegar, so called as , according to legend thieves robbing the bodies of plague victims warded off the black death with this. Presumably the herbs used would help prevent the fleas that spread plague. It now can be used as an excellent salad dressing.

Rosemary  often strewn in churches.  Not only does it kill and repel insects, leaves and a stem boiled in water for 10 minutes provides a disinfectant. The less water the stronger the disinfectant. This can be used for cleaning taps and sinks in the bathroom and scenting other parts of the house. Sage, thyme and Lavender can also be used this way.  Branches of fresh Rosemary in a room can cool the air. Stems can be used as barbecue skewers. For centuries people thought that rosemary plants would grow no higher than 6 feet in 33 years so as not to stand taller than Christ. Another Story tells that the flowers were all originally white but changed to blue when the Virgin Mary hung her cloak on a bush while fleeing from Herod’s soldiers with the Christ child. In medieval times it was burned to cleanse the altar. And was added to love sachets or place under the bed and above the door to protect from harm. Besides the historic uses, rosemary is best known for remembrance and friendship.

Sage-  Salvia, comes from Latin meaning to be in good health, it is a very powerful healing plant, put leaves among Linen to discourage insects. Boil in water to disinfect a room. Sage smoke deodorises animal and cooking smells

Thyme- Loved by bees, produces esteemed honey. Can be used to make a strong household disenfectant

Lavender a very popular plant makes a good informal hedge attracts bees and other beneficial insects. Put dried flowers in sachets and bunches to scent draws and protect linens from moths. Rub fresh flowers on skin or pin on clothes to deter flies. The plant is believed to have been taken from the Garden of Eden by Adam and Eve. However, the powerful perfume came later. According to legend the clothing of baby Jesus when laid upon a bush to dry by Mother Mary bestowed the scent. This may explain why the plant is also regarded as a holy safeguard against evil. In many Christian houses a cross of lavender was hung over the door for protection

Soapwort-  just cover in soft water (rain) and boil for 30 minutes then use soapy liquid to wash and revive delicate and fabrics.

Horsetail– A very pernicious weed, very difficult to eradicate, this proves that l plants are provided for the service of man, we only need to find that use. Horsetail makes a great pot scourer. Rub a handful of dried stems on the pot and rinse off. Make a metal polish by using fresh horsetail soak for at least 2 hours then boil in the same water for 15 mins. Pour over metal or pewter objects and soak for 5 mins. Remove articles leave to dry and polish with a soft cloth

Sweet Marjoram and Oregano  a good plant for attracting bees and pollinating insects, it also grows in Southover Churchyarduse pulverised leaves or add a strong decoction to furniture polish. Grow to attract bees and butterflies.

Yarrow-  Sweet milfoil, chop a small amount of leaves and put to a barrow load of compost to aid decomposition, helps nearby plants to resist disease and helps to deepen their fragrance Branches deter moths and other insects, lay in drawers and under carpets. Hang in wardrobes and distribute amongst books

Chives- Grow to deter aphids, apple scab and mildew. Infuse leaves as a spray for aphids, apple scab and mildew

Borage-  grown near strawberries they both help each other’s growth, attractive to bees

Lemon Balm – plant around beehives and fruit trees to attract pollinating insects. Juice can be added to furniture polish for a nice scent

Sorrel juice can be used to bleach rust, mould and ink stains from linen, wicker and silver.

This is just a short list of some of the many beneficial herbs that can be used around the house.


Martin Pett, Creation Care Team


The season of holidays is upon us and for many of us that means a chance to put our feet up in the sunshine – unless of course you’re off on a mountain climbing holiday or cycling across Europe –  but then that does rather depend how you define ‘rest’! As we head off on family holiday next week I’ve been thinking again about what it means to rest, or to take Sabbath.

As Christians we often talk of the importance of rest – after all God rested on the 7th day (Gen 2: 2-3)

‘And God blessed the seventh day and made it holy, because on it he rested from all the work of creating he had done’

In fact when God created man, he did so on the sixth day. So for Adam and Eve the first full day they have on earth they spend resting. That’s BEFORE they do any work. And God does have work for them, he created them to work in and look after the garden (and whether you take Genesis literally or metaphorcially, it’s still clearly showing rest before work).

And yet for many of us, it’s rarely that way is it? When do we rest? It is a biblical principal and even if it weren’t I think we’d all agree we need regular breaks, rests or a holiday from all the ‘creating’ we do. Where do you get your rest? How do you get your rest?

A rather wise spiritual director once told me that I should learn what things energise me and what sap my energy, in those I would find the balance between work, rest and play (to quote a once well know chocolate ad).

In this 21st century world, getting real rest is not easy is it? There is always something to do. Even for Christians, actually having a Sabbath, a day of rest, is almost impossible. A friend of mine, Shelly Miller, wrote about Sabbath in her books  “Rhythms of Rest” which helps us to look at ways to find rest in modern society.

And I really think it is a word for our time, in the West we are entrenched in a society that is obsessed with working, with filling every hour, with being busy and ‘doing’.  I made a vow a while back to stop saying ‘I am busy’ and not using it as an excuse. If we are too busy then that can’t be right, it can’t be what God intended, after all he is the author of time, something I am reminded of on a regular basis! And of course that’s what Sabbath is all about, not just rest, but time to rest with God.

One of my favourite words in the bible is ‘Selah’. We don’t truly know the meaning of the word, but the description I favour most is one that suggests a pause or rest, a break in proceedings to reflect. Probably a musical term or an indication to musicians, it features throughout the Psalms and one can imagine perhaps a stop to take a breath before continuing. It’s a word that has really spoken to me, it says something of rest but also of reflecting on where God is in our rest and in our lives. I even had it tattooed onto my wrist to remind me to take those Selah moments more often. But even as I try to work that into my day, my week, there is also something so necessary about a complete and utter rest. Complete rest from work, from the distractions at home, the to-do lists and jobs, and to have space in our lives and in our minds to rest. And often I find that in those times of giving myself space, I see God more clearly, I can see the way ahead more clearly.

So I for one am looking forward to a few weeks doing very little but hoping also to meet with God in that space, but I also want to encourage you, whatever this summer holds for you, to have a think about how and where you get your rest and finding a rhythm of rest or Selah that works for you…



Jules Middleton