Yew Tree

May 2019 – The Yew Tree

The two questions that I get asked most about the church are firstly, how old is the church, and secondly, how old is the yew tree? The answer that I give to the first question is that the current church was built around 1310. The answer to the second question is more difficult and I generally say that it could be as old as the church if not older, but I don’t really know.

I was talking with Lesley, one of our regular visitors at coffee in the Cloisters from the Chestnuts care home in Meopham. She did some research for me which confirmed that the dating of yew trees is a notoriously difficult thing to do. However, it seems that some ancient yew trees have been accurately dated, like the one in the churchyard of St Digain’s at Llangernyw in North Wales. That tree has a certificate authorised by the Yew Tree Campaign and signed by David Bellamy that says: ‘According to all the data we have to hand the tree is dated to be between 4,000 and 5,000 years old’. Evidently, there are a number of yew trees (particularly in churchyards) that predate the 10th century and there are many between 400 and 600 years old.

One of the reasons that the yew tree is difficult to date is that unlike an oak it tends to develop several distinct trunks (flutes) which mitigate against conventional dating methods like ring counting. Therefore there is a challenge in front of us, to find out the true age of the Stansted churchyard yew tree and if anybody reading this article has any ideas about how we might further this investigation, then I would be pleased to hear from you.

I thought that the conclusion to the article Lesley gave me about yew trees is worthy of reproduction, so here it is:

‘There is so much that can be identified with the yew. The tree has guarded its secrets that have fascinated and mystified generations. Some of these trees will still be watching and observing events and occasions for hundreds of years to come. Therefore, the next time you are walking through the countryside, or visiting ancient sites and churches, take a little time to stop when seeing these old and trusty historians. Take in what they have accomplished and been privy to, and marvel that they are still silently listening to our words and deeds in this, our ever-changing world’.

Rev Dr Christopher Noble – Rector

Finishing the Job

April 2019 – Finishing the Job

This time last year I was attempting to complete the writing up of my PhD research in the form of a thesis. Finishing the job seemed to take for ever and at times no matter how hard I worked the finishing line seemed to get further and further away, as more unexpected obstacles appeared. I finally graduated in January this year which was the best part of a year after the initial submission of the thesis for examination.

In the gospel Jesus demonstrates a powerful sense of determination to finish the job, or as he says; ‘reach my goal’. There is a driving purpose underlying Jesus life that surfaces particularly in times of pressure and opposition. Even in the face of serious intimidation and when challenged by the orthodox ‘religious’ to leave the area around Jerusalem, Jesus refuses to be diverted from finishing the job that he had been sent to do. When challenged Jesus says: ‘I will drive out demons and heal people today and tomorrow, and on the third day I will reach my goal’. Jesus was determined to finish the job.

Jesus preached, drove out demons and healed people with the result that he was enormously popular. But these signs and wonders were just the spotlights for his main life’s work which was to die for the sin of the world and to rise to new life on the third day, demonstrating his power and complete victory over satan, sin and death. When Jesus had finished his work, he exclaimed from the cross the words ‘it is finished’. Jesus had finished the job that he came to do and fulfilled his purpose in life.

He tore down the barrier between us and God. He paid the penalty in his own body for the sins of the world and purchased our forgiveness through the shedding of his blood. No wonder that the primary symbol of the Christian faith is an empty cross representing the ‘finished work’ of Jesus Christ.

This Good Friday we proclaim Jesus victory as we gather to carry the cross through Vigo, Fairseat and Stansted, followed by a joyful celebration of his wonderful Resurrection on Easter Sunday morning.

Rev Dr. Christopher Noble – Rector