Christmas Cake recipe

Ingredients: 

225g Plain Flour

225g Butter

225g Soft dark brown sugar

225g Currants

225g Raisins

225g Sultanas

0.5 tsp Cinnamon

0.5 tsp Cloves

0.5 tsp Freshly Grated Nutmeg

125g Chopped Almonds

125g Mixed Peel (Optional)

125g Glacé Cherries (Optional)

Rind of one lemon

Rind of one orange

4 Large Eggs, Beaten

1-2 Tablespoons Brandy

Method:

Grease and line an 8 inch spring-form cake tin. 

Sift flour with spices. In another bowl beat butter with sugar till light and fluffy. Add the citrus rinds and gradually add beaten egg. Fold flour and spice mix in alternately to the fruit and nuts. Finally add Brandy. 

Pour mixture into cake tin and make a slight well in the centre. Bake on bottom shelf of oven at 145’C for about 3 and a half hours. After cooking turn off oven and leave tin, in the oven to cool. 

Once fully cooled, prick cake with a skewer and add 2 tablespoons of Brandy/Rum of your choice, wrap in brown paper and tinfoil and a couple of days before Christmas cover with marzipan and Royal Icing. 

You can find Vicki on Instagram: @vixxihibiscus

By Victoria Fox

What’s on? Your regular events at a glance

(Dec 2020 / Jan 2021)

Sunday services 10am: Weekly church service (in person or on Zoom) at St Mary’s. Email parishoffice@ash-vale.org.uk for the link or text 07730609446 (zoom only during lockdown)

Monday Coffee Zoom 11am: Join the #ChapelKids and #LittleLambsLibrary parents & carers for a coffee chat online via zoom. No agenda just a chance to chat, offload, and share a laugh. Text Alex for the link 07730 609446 All welcome.

Wednesday Toddlers 11:30am: #ChapelKids & #LittleLambsLibrary are getting together outdoors (with social distancing) weather permitting, and on zoom if wet. You can also join our Facebook Messenger chat to keep in touch and find others to meet up with. Contact Alex on 07730 609446 for details (zoom only during lockdown).

Wednesday Evensong 8pm on Zoom, contact parishoffice@ash-vale.org.uk for details and zoom links.

Wednesday Chapel Craft 8pm-10pm at The Chapel on Wharf Rd or via Zoom, contact Kirsty for details. Kirsty.denman@googlemail.com (zoom only during lockdown)

San Rocco Chapel Art Club meets on Zoom on Thursdays. Contact Rev Neil for the link. revneil@me.com

Thursdays 10:30am-12:00 Baby Plus  at St Paul’s Tongham with Claire via zoom online. Singing, chat and activity ideas. For details contact: communityworker@stpaulstongham.org.uk

Thursday Café at St Mary’s 10:30am Please let us know you are coming so we can put out enough seats  revneil@me.com  (Closed during lockdown but get in touch and we will let you know when we re-open)

Thursday Alpha Course at St Mary’s: An opportunity to explore the Christian faith in a small group, and ask questions! Contact Jackie for details 07863 311165  (via zoom only during lockdown)

Film Fridays at The Chapel 6.30pm — contact revneil@me.com for details & booking — numbers are limited so booking is essential. (Closed during lockdown but join the email list for news once we reopen)

Make a Difference this Christmas

Christmas tree

With the whole world groaning under the strain of coronavirus , on top of climate change and other issues, it feels right to make every penny of our Christmas spending really count this year. Here are some ideas! 

Buy local—it goes without saying, our lovely local shops and entrepreneurs need us more than ever this year! The big chains have big reserves, small businesses do not. So when you’re browsing, please start with local shops and local online sellers first.  Give a voucher, buy a gift, book a treatment… supporting them now means they will still be here in 2021, what a splendid gift! 

Donate for Christmas Hampers—Our local Covid Support group are partnering with St Mary’s doing food parcels, and this Christmas they will also be delivering hampers to local people in need. Keep an eye out for the special  offers and see what you can donate! Donations needed by Sunday 13th Dec please. You can also donate online via  give a little. Thank you  https://givealittle.co/campaigns/7a47190c-ad4e-4cf9-8662-da844101a41c

Give a Christmas Tree in Uganda!

St Mary’s works closely with the charity Amaha We Uganda, supporting our brothers and sisters there to sow seeds of hope, helping people to lift themselves out of poverty.

One of the big problems lately has been soil erosion. It has wiped out crops, destroyed homes and obliterated livelihoods. Re-foresting is crucial and so the AWU team are very busy setting up tree nurseries! Did you sponsor a tree last year—it’s now growing in Uganda!  Please support  this amazing work and why not ‘buy a tree’ in Uganda for a loved one as a present? We will send you a Gift Certificate by email that you can personalise and email (or print and post) to give to your loved ones.  Donate online and simply email alex@amahaweuganda with your donation reference for your certificate.

https://uk.virginmoneygiving.com/charity-web/charity/displayCharityCampaignPage.action?campaignId=10240&charityId=1016542

By Alex Sanderson

Awards, Footprints & Eco Resolutions

We were recently delighted to learn that St. Mary’s church has been confirmed as a Bronze Award winner under the A Rocha Eco Church scheme. This is a Christian charity with a remit to mobilise Christians and Churches to care for the environment. https://ecochurch.arocha.org.uk/

Looking forward to 2021, there are positive things that could be done to improve our eco-credentials still further, and potentially to earn a Silver Award. Here are a few ideas that we would encourage everyone at Church and the wider community in Ash Vale to consider:

· When Covid restrictions are finally lifted and services in Church resume (yes it will happen one day!), why not try walking, cycling or car sharing to get to Church?

· Consider how you could reduce waste by making small changes to your lifestyle in line with the principles of “reduce”, “re-use” and “recycle”.

· Take the time to check the source of items in your shopping trolley and commit to increase your use of Fairtrade & ethically sourced goods.

· If you are thinking of replacing your car next year, have a look at the new options for cleaner electric or hybrid vehicles.

· Calculate your personal/household carbon footprint using one of the available online tools (e.g. www.carbonfootprint.com).

· Commit to offset your own carbon footprint by making a donation to one of many environmental projects, such as the tree nurseries being set up by Amaha We Uganda (www.amahaweuganda.org).

The national Church has a target of becoming carbon neutral by 2030.  St.Mary’s carbon footprint has recently been calculated and a baseline has been set or 2018 which was  22.66 tCO2. Of this, 16.94 tCO2 is attributable to gas and electricity usage, based on actual meter readings. The remainder is due to a range of factors including car use by people attending church services, food served in church and use of paper, etc. These contributions are hard to capture precisely but have been estimated using information from St. Mary’s Annual Report. As some improvements were made to the heating system at the end of 2018, and 2019 was a warm year, encouragingly, we have seen an improvement. 2019 has been calculated at 18.02 tCO2, of which 11.46 tCO2 is attributable to gas and electricity use.

I was recently asked how many trees would need to be planted to offset our carbon footprint. Not knowing the answer, I reckoned a quick online search would yield the required information but as is often the case, it proved to be a little more complicated. First, I discovered the amount of CO2 absorbed by a tree depends on multiple factors such as species, climate, rainfall and elevation, and secondly opinions vary on the number of years that should be used in calculations. After reviewing several references I am assuming 8kg/year for a “typical” tree over 20 years, one tree will offset 160kg of CO2, and six trees will offset 1 tonne (tCO2). For St.Mary’s church, this gives a target of 108 trees to offset our 2019 carbon footprint.

Let’s work together on this on our journey towards a Carbon Neutral future.

By Lesley Murphy

Saving Christmas: Matthew 1:18-23; Luke 2:8-14

By Helen Lambert

The pandemic that has dominated our lives for most of this year has challenged many people to re-evaluate their priorities. This has not been exclusively negative – it has, at times, enabled us to catch a glimpse of what could be, perhaps even what should be, in a re-imagined world.   Whether you have had to respond to loss or hardship, or have perhaps simply had more enforced time for reflection, are there things that you view differently now than you did at the start of the year?

As we approach Christmas, what do you hope for?  What do you fear?  Amidst the uncertainties that surround our plans, could this be a long-awaited opportunity to understand anew what Christmas is all about?  All around us, there is talk of “saving Christmas” – but the Bible makes clear that we have got this all wrong, for Christmas is all about the dawning of God’s great plan to save us!

These two readings from the Christmas story make this clear to us, both in messages brought by angels.  Through their familiar words we hear of the identity and the life-purpose of the child Jesus who was about to be born that first Christmas.

What does the angel tell Joseph will be Jesus’ purpose in life (Matthew 1:21)?  And how do the angels describe the role he will have to the terrified shepherds in that awesome encounter on the night of Jesus’ birth (Luke 2:11)?  As Matthew makes clear to us, the meaning of the name “Jesus” is “the one who saves”!  This is really what we celebrate at Christmas – that we have a Saviour, one who was born for the sole purpose of rescuing us! 

A few lines earlier in the book of Luke, we read that this was part of God’s plan from long ago as he had been telling his people through the Old Testament prophets:  “Praise the Lord, the God of Israel, because he has visited and redeemed his people. He has sent us a mighty Saviour from the royal line of his servant David, just as he promised through his holy prophets long ago.” (Luke 1:68-70).

What does the idea of Jesus as a Saviour mean to you?  From the beginning of time, God has been revealing himself to humanity, desiring all people to live in relationship with him, wanting to pour out his love on them, and showing us how to live in ways that bring about good.  We too are invited to know this revelation, love and way of life.  However, since the beginning of time, we have thought we knew best, have preferred our own ways and independence from God – even chosen to follow other “gods”.  We see the results of these choices in the world around us, with our news pages dominated by stories of hate, injustice, violence, envy and broken relationships.  As we turn our gaze away from our screens and inwards towards ourselves, we see that our lives are also far from perfect – and yet we know in our hearts that another way must be possible.

Christmas reminds us of the invitation to choose a different life, to seek the forgiveness and empowerment that comes from following Jesus, the One who came to make it possible.  We do not have to be stuck in the world as we see it, the “Prince of Peace” (Isaiah 9:6) has come save us into a different life with different priorities, to enable us to have peace with God and with one another. 

Amazingly, this invitation extends to us all, however we see ourselves.  It does not depend on anything we have done, or not done, but on the love that God has for each one of us.  This is why the angels call Jesus the Saviour – for he came for the sole purpose of bringing us back to God and each other.  As the apostle Paul tells Titus, “When the goodness and loving kindness of God our Saviour appeared, he saved us, not because of any works of righteousness that we had done, but according to his mercy…” (Titus 3:5)

So, whatever restrictions and compromises we may face over the coming weeks, what a relief that we don’t have to worry about “saving Christmas” – Jesus has already done it all!

Matthew 1:18-23

18 This is how the birth of Jesus the Messiah came about: His mother Mary was pledged to be married to Joseph, but before they came together, she was found to be pregnant through the Holy Spirit. 19 Because Joseph her husband was faithful to the law, and yet did not want to expose her to public disgrace, he had in mind to divorce her quietly. 20 But after he had considered this, an angel of the Lord appeared to him in a dream and said, “Joseph son of David, do not be afraid to take Mary home as your wife, because what is conceived in her is from the Holy Spirit. 21 She will give birth to a son, and you are to give him the name Jesus, because he will save his people from their sins.” 22 All this took place to fulfill what the Lord had said through the prophet: 23 “The virgin will conceive and give birth to a son, and they will call him Immanuel” (which means “God with us”).

Luke 2:8-14

 And there were shepherds living out in the fields nearby, keeping watch over their flocks at night. 9 An angel of the Lord appeared to them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were terrified. 10 But the angel said to them, “Do not be afraid. I bring you good news that will cause great joy for all the people. 11 Today in the town of David a Saviour has been born to you; he is the Messiah, the Lord. 12 This will be a sign to you: You will find a baby wrapped in cloths and lying in a manger.” 13 Suddenly a great company of the heavenly host appeared with the angel, praising God and saying, 14 “Glory to God in the highest heaven,  and on earth peace to those on whom his favour rests.”

https://www.biblegateway.com (NIV translation)

Snow on Ash Ranges in the 1980s

During the snowy winter of 1981/82 here in Ash/Ash Vale, along with everywhere else in Southern England, we awoke one day to find there had been a huge snowfall overnight and everyone was totally ‘snowed in’!  There was no way in, or out of Ash & Ash Vale, all roads were impassable until the snowploughs reached us with grit etc.  For that day we were all ‘cut-off’!  Those who did try to drive to work, found the roads where impassable & had to return home.  This was a day I shall never forget!

What a wonderful day of fun and laughter the day turned out to be!  Everyone (young or older, with or without children) made for the ranges!  We all took everything we could find to have fun!  We wore our boots, wellies, thick coats, gloves, mittens, and hats to keep our ears warm.  Sledges, toboggans, tin trays, and even ski’s were the ‘order of the day’! .  There were numerous snowball fights (between children & children, plus adults and adults!), several snow-men (or “snow-people” to be politically correct these days!) were built and children just enjoyed rolling in the snow, especially down the butts (but no damage was done, the snow was so thick)!  Everyone mixed in with the fun, regardless of their age. 

A couple of the menfolk built a fire (in a sheltered snow-hole) and managed to get a decent fire going. They then found sticks/branches, planted them in the snow with a line of string attached to make a ‘drying line’ for drying gloves!

As the kiddies (& adults) gloves became soaked through, they would take them to the fire, take them off and they were ‘pegged’ onto the line to dry out!  In exchange they received another ‘dry’ish pair of gloves, any gloves that fitted!

I am certain no child (or adult) went home that day with their own gloves, but no-one cared! It was a day nobody who was involved in will ever forget and will probably not happen again?  The ‘Community Spirit’ was definitely shown on that day.

By Pat Scott

Suffer the little Children and great big Animals to come to me

Christmas Eve in 1972 was a Sunday.  This is why the Sunday School at the Ash Vale Methodist Church planned a special Christmas procession on that Sunday morning. The idea of Mary and Joseph accompanied by a group of shepherds and the three Wise Men travelling to Bethlehem, appealed to the children and so a plan was hatched to produce something the people of Ash would remember and talk about for years to come.

I, as a new Sunday School Teacher, was one of the team elected to ensure the planned procession took place. My daughter, a newly recruited pupil at the Sunday School was also excited to help.

Many suggestions were considered and rejected.  The shepherds should have some sheep and if possible lambs with them. Wasn’t a new born lamb one of the gifts presented to the Baby Jesus ?  Enquiries were made but it transpired that sheep, and especially lambs, were not available, so this suggestion had to be shelved.

However, someone was found who could walk with the children whilst playing an accordion. For the next five weeks he, and the children practised their Christmas Carols.

We found an animal refuge that was prepared to lend us a Donkey for the day and they would deliver and collect the Donkey to meet our timing.

So on that Sunday Morning a transporter was met by forty, or so,  Sunday School Children at the end of Wharf Road and a Donkey was off loaded.

Now every donkey I had ever seen, and certainly all the pictures I had seen in the Children’s Bible were of a creature that was about half the size of a small pony In the Children’s Bible, Mary was the only rider and she overflowed on all sides of the steed.  The donkey that lumbered out of the transporter was huge.  About five feet tall with enough space on his back to accommodate the whole Sunday School. We opted for Mary and Joseph together with three companions to ride and the rest of the ‘tribe’ to follow singing  Christmas Carols.

Arriving at the Church we were met by the Minister, Bernard, who had thoughtfully brought a bucket and spade with him, in case of accidents. The idea was that the Children should celebrate Christmas and still be there when worshippers arrived for the morning service at 11.00 o’clock. And of course so would Mary, Joseph, the three Kings, Shepherds and, the Donkey.

Entry into the Church was simple enough, the doors were wide enough and it just needed a turn to the right and all would be well.  This was when Neddy displayed his thespian independence.  As soon as his front half was in, he stopped. He became rooted to the spot. I experienced my first example of an immovable object. We pushed, we pulled we pushed again, we offered carrots and pulled but to no avail. Neddy was not going in any further. But our attempts to put him in reverse were also no good. He had decided that he was there and was going to stay there. Front legs, head and shoulders in the Church and rear quarters firmly filling the doorway. Then, oh catastrophe, the congregation started to arrive. No way to get past this impenetrable blockage so they had to use Minister’s door and so were able to take part in the Service. Bernard was very amused but we faced to problem of getting Neddy out when his transport arrived to take him home.

By Mike Jacobs

Walking the Wall for Foodshare

Walking The Wall for Food-Share

Hi – I’m Kirsty and I’ve been part of the Ash & Ash Vale Community for nearly 12 years now.  During lockdown it was wonderful to see the community around me fly into action to support those in need. I wasn’t able to help as much as I would have liked to. I was at capacity – both mentally and physically – working at home from the kitchen table, home schooling and supporting two young girls. But I never ever took for granted just how fortunate we were. There was a regular salary coming in, we were healthy, we were fed, and both of our employers allowed us the flexibility we needed to look after the girls.

By August life felt like it was getting more normal. The kids were heading to school, the husband was able to commute and work from his office, and I was now looking like I was actually going to get an hour or two ON MY OWN for the first time in what felt like YEARS!!!!!

BUT – I had a growing niggle in the brain that I needed to do something; something to recognise how fortunate we were as a family. I had another niggle that others in the community were still having an incredibly hard time. But what could I do? How to help?

I’d always hankered after completing a walking challenge one day so in a moment of madness (only one glass of wine was involved) I thought I’d make my own and walk the equivalent miles in a month. I picked Hadrian’s Wall – all 84 miles of it. A challenge but not an insurmountable one. And the foodshare of the St Marys’ and the Ash, Ash Vale & Ash Green Coronavirus Support group felt like the right thing to support. They were, and still are, supporting over 20 families with weekly food parcels.  

One Just Giving page later and I was off! I was walking the equivalent length of Hadrian’s wall in September. To help the miles seem a bit easier to complete I decided to read a guide book of the wall and chart what I would have been walking past if I was actually there. Key things I learnt are that there is far less wall than you think, its beautiful countryside up there, and that the Romans carved a surprising amount of phallic graffiti into the wall! (my girls giggled lots at those pictures)

I was totally overwhelmed by the donations that my friends and family and the St Mary’s family gave. It made the miles so much more meaningful and helped to drag my bum off the sofa to keep on track. I do however want to give a particularly enormous “THANK YOU” to the two anonymous donations of £500 and £100 – I truly hope you fully appreciate the massive difference that will make.

I handed over a staggeringly huge £1200 last week to the foodshare and could not have been prouder – prouder of my friends and family for the donations, proud of the husband and kids who coped with less of me in September, and prouder of the community that I now feel a bigger part of.

By Kirsty Denman

News from Ash Citizens Advice

I live with my two children and partner in a small semi-detached house. During the winter we use more heating and electricity as we’re home more. Do you have any tips on how I can keep the cost of my energy down during the winter?

There are a few things you can do to save some money during the winter period. Check when your energy contract is due to expire. If you’re at the end of your contract use energy compare by Citizens Advice to see if you could save money by switching supplier or tariff.

If you’re on a prepayment meter you could save money by replacing your meter with one that lets you pay after using energy rather than in advance. Most suppliers won’t charge for removing a prepayment meter, though many will run a credit check or ask for a deposit.

You may also be eligible for certain grants and benefits these could include Warm Home discount or help with energy debt.

Here are a few practical tips to help keep costs down:

· Using a timer for your heating, lowering your thermostat and using radiator valve controls could save you over £100 per year

· Changing light bulbs to more efficient ones could save £50 over the lifetime of the bulb

· Turn appliances off standby mode to save around £30 a year

· Seal cracks in floors, skirting boards and add draft excluders to letterboxes, doors and windows.

· Some energy suppliers also offer grants to allow improvements to your home, like insulation or a new boiler. What help you can get depends on your circumstances and what would help your home. You don’t need to be a customer of one of these suppliers to apply but you’ll Need to check your eligibility. If you would like help with the any of the issues above, please contact Ash Citizens Advice on 01252 315569.

Citizens Advice Ash is an independent local charity. We depend on local funding from local authorities, local charitable trusts, local businesses and private donations. Our highly trained volunteers, who give their free time to help local people, are currently working from home providing free independent telephone and email advice service. We have recent funding from the CO-OP to help us continue to provide this service post the pandemic, helping us to return to face to face services in a safe and secure environment . If you would like to support us you can do this by going to the CO-OP website and becoming a CO-OP member https://www.coop.co.uk/membership?

Citizens Advice Ash is open Monday to Thursday 9.30 am to 4 pm for telephone advice (01252 315569). Email advice is available via our website: www.ashcab.org.uk.

By Sandra Luff

No, it’s not cancelled! Christingle is coming to you!

24th December 2020  4:30pm-6:00pm

In the streets of Ash Vale, doorsteps & Zoom 

Join us on Zoom for a virtual Christingle, or join our roving carol singers to bring some Christmas cheer to our neighbours too! At 6pm we will finish off with bell ringing on our doorsteps to wish the whole community a blessed and peaceful Christmas. We will be collecting donations in aid of the Children’s Society online:  https://www.childrenssociety.org.uk/

If you’d like the zoom link and a Christingle Kit to make at home, or are interested in joining in with the roving carol singing groups outside please get in touch asap on 07730 609446 or email parishoffice@ash-vale.org.uk

Please note—we will be following the covid rules, so the carols will be in households, bubbles or small groups according to the laws on the day.

#Christingle2020 #ChildrensSociety #ChristmasEve #CopingWithCovid #LoveWhereWeLive #AshVale #StMarysAshVale #ChristingleAndCarols