March 2023 – Wars and Earthquakes

‘When you hear of wars and rumours of wars, do not be alarmed. Such things must happen, but the end is still to come, nation will rise against nation, and kingdom against kingdom. There will be earthquakes in various places, and famines. These are the beginning of the birth pains.’
Mark 13. 7-8

The earthquakes in Turkey and President Putin’s war to crush and destroy Ukraine have reminded me of the words that Jesus spoke before his departure. Jesus gave us a prediction, which has proved to be remarkably accurate over time. He spoke of the future of this world after his ascension, and it is not an overly optimistic one with regard to the way things are going to pan out.

The earthquakes and the wars that we have been witnessing over the last year strike at the roots of our sense of security in this world. The ground beneath our feet has been shaken and we feel far less secure. It seems that the COVID-19 Pandemic inaugurated a new era of escalating world instability, insecurity and chaos. I can only imagine how someone feels in Turkey as day by day they wonder if the ground is going to shake again. We too feel once more a renewed sense of cold war insecurity with the arrival of even more devastating nuclear weapons that have the capability to destroy us in just minutes.

Jesus instructs us ahead of time when he says ‘do not be alarmed’. His message both then and now is for us to find our security in him and in his gift of salvation rather than in any earthly power or strength. This world is passing away. It is our temporary residence and not our permanent home. As the apostle Peter put it we are ‘aliens and exiles in this world.’

Increasingly my faith, my hope and my sense of security are in Jesus Christ who alone can bring me safely through life and death. He is the one who has already raised my spirit from the grave and he is the one who will raise my body to new life with him in the world to come. In an out-of-control world, I find great comfort in my faith in Jesus Christ. He is the hope of the nations and he is my hope in what looks like an increasingly hopeless world.

Chris Noble

February 2023 – Faith in the Building

At St Mary’s Stansted a lot of work goes on behind the scenes in the maintenance and upkeep of the Church Building and its surroundings. As you can imagine keeping a medieval building in good repair requires a considerable investment of time, energy and money. The Church Wardens and Parochial Church Council as well as a faithful group of helpers are continually working away in the background to make sure that the building and the churchyard do not fall into disrepair.

In the past, we have been blessed with a small but committed core of people from inside and outside the village who have made a substantial investment in the ongoing life of the Church Building. I am very thankful to all those who have supported the upkeep of the building and indeed to those who continue to do so. You have probably read in the papers that in the wake of covid-19 the Church of England has lost about 35% of its volunteers who have in the past been very active in the life and maintenance of the local Churches. It is going to be interesting to see how this plays out in the future both Nationally and locally but here in this parish, we are determined to press ahead not only with maintenance but also with the growth and development of the congregation and its facilities.

We have faith in the building. Not only in its importance as a symbol of Christianity in these villages but also as a repository of living faith in Jesus Christ. St Mary’s is not just an historic building, it is the meeting place of the local Anglican Christian Fellowship. The word fellowship means participation. Participation in the life of God involves positive and active involvement in the lives of one another. Our fellowship with God is expressed and in part experienced in our fellowship with each other. We need God and we need one another. We participate in fellowship with God and we participate in fellowship with one another. Indeed the Bible goes as far as saying that we experience Christ in one another.

What we have at St Mary’s is faith in a building. Living faith in Jesus Christ is being publically expressed in a beautiful and inspiring ancient building.

Rev. Dr Christopher Noble – Rector of St Mary’s Stansted with Fairseat and Vigo and Area Dean of Shoreham.


January 2023 – Rudiments of Faith

At the age of eleven, my cousin who was a professional drummer, gave me a practice pad, a pair of drumsticks and a book of rudiments. Each day I practised these short exercises and without realising it, I learned to play the drums. It wasn’t until I started to play music with others that I realised just how much I had learned from these simple rudiments.

Learning to pray is a bit like learning to play a musical instrument because to progress you need to practice. The practice of prayer and personal meditation is foundational to the development of a living faith in God but it can be difficult to know how to begin. To help with this, I have written a book called Rudiments of Faith. It is a book of very short daily meditations and prayers which have been designed as rudiments for developing a faith that works. They are intended to be used every day to realise conscious contact with God.

The spiritual life is not a theory, it has to be lived, and the prayers and meditations in the book provide building blocks for developing the type of faith that works in everyday life. The exercises have been road-tested and have a proven track record in providing the reader with the necessary rudiments for a living and practical faith.

Discovering the presence of God in my heart has been a transformative journey for me and it is this experience that I want to share through these prayers and meditations. If you decide to read these rudiments of faith, my hope and prayers for you are that you will be able to experience not only a spiritual awakening but also an ongoing spiritual life that works in all the ups and downs of life. Whatever the circumstances of life, I know that by living on a spiritual basis, God’s peace and presence are always available.

Rudiments of Faith is available at the back of the Church as well as on Kindle and for purchase through Amazon Books.

Rev. Dr Christopher Noble – Rector

For further information about anything to do with the church please contact the Rector, Rev Dr Chris Noble on 01732 822494  or email:

December 2022 – Mince Pies & Crisps

Mince Pies and Crisps

It is dark outside and winter is upon us, but as our ancestors whose lives depended upon the seasons understood, even in the depths and darkness of winter, that the light of spring will soon begin to work its regenerative power. This ancient Festival of Light with its celebration of the rebirth of the sun was adopted by the Christian Church in the fourth century when Pope Julius declared the 25th of December as the official birthday of Jesus Christ.  The birth of the Son supplanted the birth of the sun and the birth of Christ became the new focal point of this ancient festival.

Even though the festival was embossed with the stamp of Christ is has never become entirely separated from its pre-Christian roots.  The use of foliage or wintergreen, including mistletoe, as well as the yule logs that were burned to provide light and heat for the festival, are just two of the traditions that survive, even if the log has been turned into a chocolate one! The Christian church has continued to add to this celebratory cocktail with its own embellishments and rites.  The cult of the crib thrived in the middle ages and its vestiges are still with us in the form of nativity plays and crib services.

These traditions and their inherent paganism have not gone unchallenged through church history and many of the protestant reformers including John Calvin and the early Presbyterians refused to recognise Christmas as Christian.  During the Commonwealth period, the church tried to suppress Christmas but this met with a significant level of passive and active resistance.  Following the restoration of the monarchy the feasting returned and aided in the following centuries by Charles Dickens, Prince Albert and consumer culture, it has continued to develop into what it is today.

It seems that Christmas is here to stay and I guess that it will continue to evolve and develop to reflect our ever-changing culture with its shifting values and patterns of belief.  Personally, I like mince pies, Christmas lights, Stollen cake, Slade, winter walks with my family, a warm house, new socks and lots of crisps.  What about you?  What do you like about Christmas?


Rev. Dr Christopher Noble – Rector


November 2022 – Hope Now

Hope Now

God is our refuge and strength, an ever-present help in trouble. Therefore, we will not fear, though the earth gives way and the mountains fall into the heart of the sea.

I have just been at our local primary school to take a barrage of theological questions from a class of eight-year-olds. I was asked to address the question ‘why do Christians believe in God?’ The subsequent dialogue was excellent and it was very good for me to have to give quick and simple responses to the profound questions of life that these young hearts and minds were already grappling with.

I was asked what I got from my faith and the answer that I found coming from my lips was “hope”. When I got home from my grilling, I began to think further about this and realised what an amazing thing it is to have hope that springs from faith in the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ.

This is especially true when things go wrong and seem to fall apart before our eyes. We find ourselves asking God questions and wondering why things are as they are. It was interesting to me that these eight-year-old minds were wrestling with questions such as why is there war and how can God allow such suffering in the world. Perhaps, as never before, our children are exposed to a barrage of images and media input that forces them to engage early in life with the social realities of war and human suffering.

So, what difference can faith make in a world of trouble and turmoil? Part of the answer to that question is that faith brings hope even in the most desperate of life’s situations. How is it, that a believer in the resurrection of Jesus Christ can rejoice and be at peace on their deathbed? How can a person of deep faith live in faith and hope when all that we consider worthwhile in life has been stripped away?

Only God can do this. Only the Lord of hosts can bring hope to the hopeless, love to the loveless and faith to the faithless.

Rev. Dr Christopher Noble – Rector of St Mary’s Stansted with Fairseat and Vigo and Area Dean of Shoreham.

October 2022 – All Change

All Change

There is quite a bit of change taking place in the diocese of Rochester of which our church is a part. The major change is that by the time this edition of the Parish Notes comes out there will be a new bishop of Rochester.

The new Bishop is the Rt Reverend Jonathan Gibbs who was formally the Bishop of Huddersfield in the Diocese of Leeds and is also the Lead Bishop in charge of safeguarding in the Church of England.

The Diocese of Rochester serves a population of 1.3 million people, covering 215 parishes across Medway, north and west Kent, as well as the London boroughs of Bromley and Bexley.

Responding to his appointment Bishop Jonathan said:
“I am delighted to have been announced as the new Bishop of Rochester. My wife Toni and I are so excited about the prospect of moving to this wonderful Diocese. 

For us, Rochester will be a new place to discover and we’re so looking forward to getting to know the people of our churches and our communities, and to working together with them as we encourage God’s kingdom to grow in this wonderfully varied and rich place.

We are very conscious of the diversity of the communities that we serve, from urban and suburban to profoundly rural, and I am looking forward to the opportunity of exploring all these different places and to sharing in the journey with the people here of growing God’s Church, of serving the communities, and of proclaiming the good news of Christ to the people whom we seek to love and to serve in Jesus’s name.”

We will be praying for Bishop Jonathan as he takes up this significant responsibility in this time of significant change in and beyond the Church.

Rev. Dr Christopher Noble – Rector of St Mary’s Stansted with Fairseat and Vigo and Area Dean of Shoreham.



September 2022 – Back to School

With so many shops and businesses selling and promoting products on the basis of the ‘back to school’ banner, I thought I’d put out a spiritual ‘back to school’ notification.

This autumn, I will be focusing on prayer in the teaching program of the church. As part of that, I will be offering prayer workshops and prayer tutorials for anyone who would like to learn more about prayer or to develop their existing practice.

The disciples of Jesus watched him praying and although they were familiar with prayer there was something different about his praying. What was it that was so unique about the prayer of Jesus? For one thing, his prayers got answered and many of them immediately. This intrigued the followers of Jesus and they wanted to know more, which is why he taught them the ‘Our Father’.

Of course, prayer is more than words and one of the oldest and deepest traditions of the church involves stillness and silent prayer. Indeed, this is God’s gift to the church and the promise of peace is attached to it. Prayer and meditation are the Lord’s antidotes to stress, worry, anxiety and fears that plague so many people today.

If you would like to develop your prayer life then do join us in church this autumn as we go back to school in the Christian tradition of prayer and meditation.

‘But you, when you pray, go into your room, and when you have shut the door, pray to your Father who is in the secret place; and your Father who sees in secret will reward you openly’. Matthew 6.6

Rev. Dr Christopher Noble
Rector of St Mary’s Stansted with Fairseat and Vigo & Area Dean of Shoreham

August 2022 – Making the Connection

I was asked recently to come and lead a class at our local primary school. I had to try to explain to a group of eight-year-olds what the role of being a vicar involved.

In order to do this, I took my robe case which not only contained my robes but also an assortment of artefacts that I use in the course of my duties. Of particular significance were my beaten-up old copy of the Bible and my miniature home communion set.

Children’s questions about God are often more daring and profound than the ones we ask as adults. The leading question was who made God? My answer was that he is uncreated, has always existed, and always will exist. Many of the other questions showed that the children had given considerable thought to the bigger questions of life as well as the involvement of God in this world and their lives. Children have a knack for putting you on the spot and a couple of the children asked me if I enjoyed my job? I replied ‘most of it!’

The whole exercise did make me reflect quite deeply on the role of a Church of England Priest in 21st Century Britain. The job is basically the same as it’s always been which is to help people to find God for themselves. It’s a sort of divine introduction agency for anyone seeking to raise their sights above and beyond this life.

The pastoral task is centred on helping people in making their connection with God in whatever circumstances they find themselves and of course, this involves teaching and helping people to pray in a way that is real and meaningful. Thus it was and will always be.

My time at the school finished with a short time of prayer which was surprisingly meaningful and remarkably silent!

Rev. Dr Christopher Noble
Rector of St Mary’s Stansted with Fairseat and Vigo & Area Dean of Shoreham

July 2022 – Contemplative Prayer

One of my predecessors, the Rev’d Coulson, founded the school of contemplative prayer which he ran from a prayer cell in the basement of the old Rectory in Stansted. When I first came here some of the older parishioners had clearly been positively impacted by his practice of being silent in prayer and meditation before God. He was very strict about silence in the church, before, during and after worship as people were not permitted to talk or chat at all in the church building. I remember one of his parishoners telling me that she saw herself as one of ‘the quiet of the land’ and she understood that her vocation was to pray in silence. This contemplative legacy was a very good thing which I didn’t really appreciate at the time but as I have continued in the spiritual life I have come to value this important tradition within the church. Like most of us who have been pursuing spiritual growth, I too have tried many ways and methods as I have sought to make prayer central to my life.
Getting to this point has been quite a journey as I have lived through more than a few seasons when I have found it difficult to pray at all. As with my contemplative predecessors, I have come to a place in prayer where I don’t say very much but focus more on what the Lord might be saying to me. I suppose you could call it listening prayer as much as contemplative prayer, but the process is much the same. Contemplative Prayer for me is not about emptying the mind, rather it is about engaging in the process of seeking to still my mind before God. It’s never quite the same from day to day as sometimes it seems easy but on other days, I find it almost impossible.
Some days I awake conscious of the Lord’s presence but on a normal day its more of a cold start and that involves work, in self-examination, confession, spiritual reading, and waiting on Him in stillness and silence. I usually conclude my prayers with a few set prayers that I have committed to memory because they remind me to seek and to do the will of God in all the affairs of the day. I don’t believe in formulas when it comes to prayer as for me it is a relational practice because God is my friend as well as my boss. My day is always lacking and often falls well below par if I am prevented from spending the beginning of the day with God.

Rev. Dr Christopher Noble – Rector
St Mary’s Stansted with Fairseat and Vigo

June 2022 – Continuity and Change

Queen Elizabeth II has given our nation a wonderful sense of continuity through a period of enormous, and at times, accelerated change.

We are very thankful to her for her dedication and life-long commitment to her vocation as our sovereign in matters temporal.

I think we are all aware of the self-sacrifice and selflessness that is involved in the role of the constitutional monarch and we continue to pray for Queen Elizabeth as she fulfils this weighty ministry on our behalf.

Of course, this continuity will be broken and change will come. Over many decades the Church has prayed faithfully for the Queen and we need to pray that her successors will be prepared and enabled by God to fulfil this weighty calling.

As we celebrate we are all more conscious than ever, that in many different ways this is a fragile world, and it continues to need both our prayers and our work under the direction and care of the mighty hand of God.

As we come together for this time of celebration let us remember what it says in the old book:

‘Therefore, let us keep the feast, not with old leaven, neither with the leaven of malice and wickedness; but with the unleavened bread of sincerity and truth.’

May the Lord be with you.

Rev. Dr Christopher Noble – Rector
St Mary’s Stansted with Fairseat and Vigo