Overlayed image of St Sabinus - Woolacombe Overlayed image of St. Mary's - Mortehoe Overlayed image of St. Matthew's - Lee

Revd. Susan Oldham has been Vicar of the three coastal parishes of Woolacombe, Mortehoe and Lee since September 2023.  Here we publish her parish magazine articles and other relevant pieces.


As you read this article, I wonder whether we will be basking in long awaited summer heat or groaning under the grey skies that have been dogged us this year.  Who knows?

However, flaming June will arrive, one way or another!

Hoping for the warmth of summer made me think about heat and particularly fire. 

Science tells us that the Big Bang from which our universe originated was a tiny incredibly dense fireball of energy that exploded 13.8 billion years ago.  From this, all matter in the universe was the result – including us.

The oldest fire recorded on Earth has been identified from charcoal in rocks formed during the late Silurian Period, while the first stage of human interaction with fire, was perhaps as early as 1.5 million years ago in Africa.  This is thought to have been opportunistic activity in possibly keeping a wildfire alight with something like dung as its use for light and warmth became apparent.  However it was first used, fire has incredible value and meaning on so many levels even to us today.

The ancients saw the wonder of fire and folklore from Native American Tribes in the Pacific Northwest and First Nations tells stories of fire being stolen by Dog, Coyote and Beaver, and gifted to humans, while in Greek mythology Prometheus, a Titan stole fire from the Olympian gods and gifted it to humanity. This act of defiance allowed humans to gain knowledge, creativity, and technological advancement, but it also brought the wrath of Zeus upon Prometheus.

In the Bible, there are about five hundred references to fire, with the first in the book of Genesis where we are told that God placed angels with a flaming sword to guard the way to the tree of life following Adam and Eve’s transgressions in the Garden of Eden.

God’s presence is symbolised by fire in the Burning Bush that Moses encounters in Exodus and God’s glory as a pillar of fire leading the Israelites through the wilderness during the night.  It is seen as a symbol of judgement, of purification, but in the New Testament in the Book of Acts, it is seen as the transforming power of the Holy Spirit.

Pentecost is a Christian festival 50 days after Easter that celebrates the descent of the Holy Spirit upon the first disciples and the beginning of the global mission of the church.

It is seen as the birthday of the church with an explosion of believers in Jesus Christ.   The story is found in the Acts of the Apostles, chapter 2.

On that day, the apostles were gathered together, and suddenly there came from heaven a sound like a mighty rushing wind. Tongues of fire appeared and rested on each of them, and they were filled with the Holy Spirit. As a result, they began to speak in other languages, inspired by the Spirit.  

Much like the Big Bang, the church has exploded from Jerusalem throughout the entire world. 

So whatever June brings this year – sun or rain,  may you know the transforming fire of God which warms our lives and lights the path ahead.

Revd Susan 


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Time for Swallows

This year it seems to me that the swallows and house martins who spend their summers in the UK are late this year. I am told someone first saw a swallow on 13th March, but although I have seen a few, the joyful, winged acrobats of the sky are taking their time to come in force to our cold, rain-soaked island.

Swallows arrive first, followed by house martins and then swifts in May. Ringed birds have been known to cover at least 14,000 miles on a round trip! Apparently at one time when no one knew where they went at the end of the summer, it was thought, (even by some scientists), that they lived in the bottom of ponds during the winter.

These incredible little birds who weigh less than an ounce have a truly epic journey to us, taking about six weeks from Sub-Saharan Africa. Numbers though seem to be sadly declining, and this is probably partly due to the loss of places to nest.

Thinking about them made me reflect on how they know when to come. How do they know the time is right? As with so many organisms in nature, they just seem to know. It is probably due to the lengthening days in the northern hemisphere, abundant sources of food and the competition spurring them to migrate from other species in Africa.

Time is a concept that we have no power over. It rolls on regardless and as that well known philosopher Rod Stewart was once heard to say, ‘It’s like a toilet roll – the less there is, of it the faster it goes!’.

As humans we too are obviously governed by time. We are born and we die. We know day and night, seconds, minutes, hours and as it says in the Book of Proverbs, there is a time for everything.

When Jesus came to be with us, he was also governed by time. He was born in Bethlehem, lived in Nazareth and ministered in many places throughout his life. At the age of just thirty-three he died. As Christians, we believe that Jesus who is also God, eschewed the power and glory of being outside time and space. We believe that he who with the Father and the Holy Spirit was there at the beginning of time at the creation of the world, chose to be one of us and to be subject to all we experience including time. Yet, in the resurrection Jesus defied death and time. As St Paul wrote in his letter to the Romans (NLT - 5:6),

‘When we were utterly helpless, Christ came at the right time and died for us sinners.

Perhaps you have not thought much about Jesus’ timing in the big scheme of things. Perhaps you have not felt the need to, but from the time Jesus came to us, the world was different - time is different. This year is 2024 – 2,024 years after his birth and so we can know that we can also look forward to his return sometime in the future as he has promised.

Well, looking forward, hopefully by the time you read this, the storms will have abated, and the sky will once more be filled with the joyous sight of our swooping, chirping, winged visitors.

God bless, Susan        

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This Joyous Easter Tide

Finally, spring has arrived! After the wet, cold, windy months of winter, the days are lengthening, and we find ourselves surrounded by the unfurling of leaves, colourful flowers and joyous bird song. All around us, we can witness the new life of spring and the promise of warmer times ahead.

During April, we are continuing to celebrate Easter, which is the greatest festival in the church calendar. Following the remembrance of Jesus Christ’s journey to the cross during Holy Week, with the sombre observations of Maundy Thursday and Good Friday, we awake on Easter Sunday morning to the joy of the news that death has been conquered in the resurrection and Jesus lives!

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It's Lent time again.

Years ago, spring cleaning was an annual ritual.  Curtains removed and washed, rugs beaten outside, walls and floors scrubbed; cupboards emptied and cleaned, before being re-packed with sorted items.

I don’t know of anyone who continues this discipline, but one ancient ritual that in a sense conjures up that idea of cleaning, sorting and re-purposing is in full swing in church communities all over the country.

This month the Church continues its 40-day journey of reflection before Easter, known as Lent, (although the good news is, Sundays are not included!).  The word comes from Old English, meaning to lengthen, as was seen in the days drawing out as spring approached.  It is a time to follow the example of Jesus who went out into the Judean wilderness in order to be able to prepare himself for the enormous task he would be taking on as his ministry began. 

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The Hope of Spring

The strange thing about writing an article for a magazine is that it has to be written weeks before the magazine is published.  This means that by the time it appears, any forecast made could be completely wrong.  So although more settled weather is predicted, by the time you read this it could be very different. 

As I write, the sun is streaming into the window and the faintest stirring of spring is in the air after what seems like months of rain, with birdsong and bulbs tentatively pushing up shoots from the earth.  For me, this speaks of the  hope of spring.  Curiously, at this time of year, one of the smallest and most fragile looking flowers determinedly pushes itself up out of turf or woodland floors.  While storms rage and ice and snow threaten, the snowdrop makes its humble appearance.

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The Promise of light.

At this time of year darkness seems to encroach on us all as the days shorten and dark clouds fill the skies.  From my office which affords me the most wonderful view of Woolacombe beach, the lead grey of the sea means the horizon is indistinguishable from the sky.  Somehow even the news seems darker with the suffering of not only the Ukrainian people, but awful accounts daily reported from Israel and Palestine.

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