Welcome to Two Valleys

St John the Baptist's Church, Stockton

Services and Events taking place in the Benefice:

Sunday 16th February – 2nd Sunday before Lent
09:00am     Little Langford         Holy Communion (BCP)
10:00am     Berwick St James     Matins (BCP)
10:30am     Wylye                      Matins – preparing for Lent
11:00am     Stapleford               Holy Communion (CW)
06:00pm     South Newton        Evensong – preparing for Lent


Events Calendar


Diary for this week

Monday – Friday 08:30am Morning Prayer
All Saints Steeple Langford: everyone is welcome.
We pray daily for the life, cares and concerns of our Benefice, nation and the world.

Thursday 2.00pm-4.00pm       Café in the Church at St Giles, Great Wishford on Christmas Break
Friday 7.30pm                          Bell Ringing Practice at Stapleford
Thursday 7:30pm       Bell Ringing Practice at Steeple Langford and Wylye (Alternating) 01985 248166  



Ash Wednesday February 26th
Great Wishford, 7:00pm. This is a hugely important Feast and I hope to welcome everyone to this service.


25th February 2020 SHROVE TUESDAY
Pancake Evening at The Carriers, Stockton
The menu is being circulated and copies will be in each church and by email
Please contact Steve or Jean at
THE CARRIERS PUB directly on 01985 850538
Time: 6:30pm Price £11.00 per person


Pancakes at St Giles Great Wishford 5:00 – 6:30pm + Quiz


For more events see the Events Calendar: twovalleys.org/events

For Stapleford Parish Council Files see: Stapleford Files


New on the Website:

10.02.20   Weekly Update of Services and Events this page

Septuagesima Sunday this page

Plough Sunday, Berwick St James

07.02.20. February 2020 Benefice Letter

Additions to Events Calendar

04.02.20. Benefice Prayers for February

In Praise of Winter

13.01.20. Plough Sunday Report


Three Sundays of pre-Lent

If you look at some calendars of the Church Year, you will find that the three Sundays before Lent are not listed as Sundays after Epiphany, but rather as

  • Septuagesima Sunday
  • Sexagesima Sunday and
  • Quinquagesima Sunday.

These are the Three Sundays of Pre-Lent, and on them the theme of the readings and prayers is at least moderately penitential. The reader may be disposed to think: "It looks as though someone decided that forty days of Lent were not enough, and that we needed to practice being gloomy three weeks early, so that we could be up to speed by the time Lent actually started."

In fact there is a different explanation. When Italy was invaded by the Lombards in A.D. 568, and the city of Rome was in danger of being captured and sacked, the Bishop of Rome led his clergy and congregation outside the walls of Rome on three successive Sundays to celebrate the Liturgy, as a sign that they sought their chief protection not from fortifications but from the providence of God.

The Prayers found in the Liturgy for those three Sundays reflect the perilous times in which they were written.


Three weeks prior to Ash Wednesday, on the day before Septuagesima Sunday, a touching ceremony is held. A choir assembles, chants the divine office and, afterwards, sings a bittersweet hymn bidding farewell to the word "Alleluia":


We do not now deserve
To sing the Alleluia forever;
Guilt forces us
To dismiss you, O Alleluia.
For the time approaches in which
We must weep for our sins.

That ceremony, known as the Depositio of the Alleluia, ushers in the season of Septuagesima, the roughly seventy days prior to Easter that help us make the transition from the joy of Epiphany to the penitence of Lent.

The Depositio

As Septuagesima (Latin for "seventy") is seventy days before Easter, it typologically commemorates the seventy years of exile spent by the Jews in Babylon.

As Psalm 136 attests, God's chosen people did not deem it fit to sing their joyous songs from Sion during the Babylonian exile.

Psalm 136

God’s Work in Creation and in History

1 O give thanks to the Lord, for he is good,
for his steadfast love endures for ever.
2 O give thanks to the God of gods,
for his steadfast love endures for ever.
3 O give thanks to the Lord of lords,
for his steadfast love endures for ever;

4 who alone does great wonders,
for his steadfast love endures for ever;
5 who by understanding made the heavens,
for his steadfast love endures for ever;
6 who spread out the earth on the waters,
for his steadfast love endures for ever;
7 who made the great lights,
for his steadfast love endures for ever;
8 the sun to rule over the day,
for his steadfast love endures for ever;
9 the moon and stars to rule over the night,
for his steadfast love endures for ever;

10 who struck Egypt through their firstborn,
for his steadfast love endures for ever;
11 and brought Israel out from among them,
for his steadfast love endures for ever;
12 with a strong hand and an outstretched arm,
for his steadfast love endures for ever;
13 who divided the Red Sea* in two,
for his steadfast love endures for ever;
14 and made Israel pass through the midst of it,
for his steadfast love endures for ever;
15 but overthrew Pharaoh and his army in the Red Sea,*
for his steadfast love endures for ever;
16 who led his people through the wilderness,
for his steadfast love endures for ever;
17 who struck down great kings,
for his steadfast love endures for ever;
18 and killed famous kings,
for his steadfast love endures for ever;
19 Sihon, king of the Amorites,
for his steadfast love endures for ever;
20 and Og, king of Bashan,
for his steadfast love endures for ever;
21 and gave their land as a heritage,
for his steadfast love endures for ever;
22 a heritage to his servant Israel,
for his steadfast love endures for ever.

23 It is he who remembered us in our low estate,
for his steadfast love endures for ever;
24 and rescued us from our foes,
for his steadfast love endures for ever;
25 who gives food to all flesh,
for his steadfast love endures for ever.

26 O give thanks to the God of heaven,
for his steadfast love endures for ever.


The joyful "Alleluia" is thus laid to rest for seventy days until it rises again in the Easter Vigil. As mentioned elsewhere, this dismissal, or depositiio, of the Alleluia can take place formally in a special ceremony. After the Saturday office of None or at some point of the afternoon on the day before Septuagesima Sunday, the choir gathers in the church where it carries a plaque or banner bearing the word "Alleluia" through the church as it sings the touching hymn, "Alleluia, dulce carmen" (part of which is quoted elsewhere). It is then solemnly "buried" in some place in the church. In the Middle Ages this procession could become quite elaborate. Sometimes the "Alleluia" plaque would be in the shape of a coffin, while in parts of France, a straw man with the word "Alleluia" was even burned in effigy in the churchyard. A simpler ceremony based on the same principles, however, can easily be held in one's home or parish.

With Saturday's Vigil begins the season of Septuagesima, and our attention turns to the themes of exile and banishment -- our expulsion from Eden, the captivity in Babylon, the fate of death -- rooted in sin. The Divine Office today begins with the first chapter of Genesis and recounts man's Fall, and the fourth and fifth lessons -- written by St. Augustine -- explain things:

Lesson Four:
The Lord had foretold that if man should sin, he would bring upon himself the penalty of death. Thus it was that, albeit God endowed man with free-will, he asserted his dominion over him by urging on him the danger of self-destruction through sin. And so God placed him in that happy Garden (as it were, in a sheltered nook of life), whence he might have attained unto an even better life, if he had remained righteous.

But this first man sinned, and was therefore driven out of his paradise. And by his sin, he infected all his offspring with the disease of sin, since he himself (their source), was poisoned therewith; whereby he brought upon all mankind the very sentence of death and damnation which he had earned for himself. So it is that all who descend by fleshly generation from Adam and his wife Eve (which latter had urged him to sin, and therefore shared in the sentence passed upon him), inherit original sin; whereby we are drawn on, through divers errors and sorrows, toward the final ruin that fallen man doth share with the fallen angels, which same are our corrupters, masters, and partakers in this doom.

Lesson Five:
By one man sin entered into the world, and death by sin, and so death passed upon all men, for that all have sinned. In this sentence, by the word world the Apostle signifieth all mankind. Thus then did the matter stand? All of doomed humanity lay in misery, (or rather was blundering on, and plunging from bad to worse), together with that part of the Angels which had sinned, until both together should suffer the condign punishment of their vile treason.

This Season, then, is a prelude to the penitential mortifications of Lent -- a time that ends with the Passion of Christ and leads to the glorious Resurrection and Ascension that end our exile. It's as if during Septuagesima, we recognize our exile and the reasons for it; during Lent we repent of those reasons; during Passiontide, Our Lord assuages the Father's wrath at those reasons; and then, during Easter, we rejoice that, through the Cross, we can avoid the eternal price of sin.

For now, though, exile it is, and to indicate this, we eliminate the alleluia -- which means "All hail to Him Who is" -- from the Mass. Just as at Requiem Masses (and also the Mass for the Holy Innocents), the alleluia isn't heard and will be heard no more until the Easter Vigil on Holy Saturday. This tenth century hymn tells of the alleluia's absence:

Alleluia, song of sweetness,
voice of joy that cannot die;
alleluia is the anthem
ever raised by choirs on high;
in the house of God abiding
thus they sing eternally.

Alleluia thou resoundest,
true Jerusalem and free;
alleluia, joyful mother,
all thy children sing with thee;
but by Babylon's sad waters
mourning exiles now are we.


Alleluia cannot always
be our song while here below;
alleluia our transgressions
make us for awhile forgo;
for the solemn time is coming
when our tears for sin must flow.

Therefore in our hymns we pray Thee,
grant us, blessed Trinity,
at the last to keep Thine Easter,
in our home beyond the sky,
there to Thee for ever singing
alleluia joyfully.


Septuagesima is the ninth Sunday before Easter, the third before Lent known among the Greeks as "Sunday of the Prodigal" from the Gospel, Luke 15, which they read on this day, called also Dominica Circumdederunt by the Latins, from the first word of the Introit of the Mass.

In liturgical literature the name "Septuagesima" occurs for the first time in the Gelasian Sacramentary. Why the day (or the week, or the period) has the name Septuagesima, and the next Sunday Sexagesima, etc., is a matter of dispute among writers. It is certainly not the seventieth day before Easter, still less is the next Sunday the sixtieth, fiftieth, etc. Amularius, "De eccl. Off.", I, I, would make the Septuagesima mystically represent the Babylonian Captivity of seventy years, would have it begin with this Sunday on which the Sacramentaries and Antiphonaries give the Introit "Circumdederunt me undique" and end with the Saturday after Easter, when the Church sings "Eduxit Dominus populum suum." Perhaps the word is only one of a numerical series: Quadragesima, Quinquagesima, etc. Again, it may simply denote the earliest day on which some Christians began the forty days of Lent, excluding Thursday, Saturday, and Sunday from the observance of the fast.




The Wylye and Till Valley Benefice takes its responsibilities surrounding the safeguarding of children, young people and adults who may be at risk very seriously and works in partnership with the Diocese of Salisbury to ensure that we work in accordance with best practice at all times.

Who to contact if you have a Safeguarding concern:

  • Rev'd Jonathan Plows: Priest-in-Charge of the nine churches of the Benefice - rectorwtv@gmail.com or 01722 331647
  • Mrs Heather Bland*: Salisbury Diocese Safeguarding Adviser (Wiltshire & Dorset) - heatherbland@salisbury.anglican.com 01722 411922 or 07500 411922
  • Gill Brasher: Contact for Berwick St James - brasherg100@gmail.com
  • Daphne Smith: Contact for Great Wishford, Stapleford, South Newton and Winterbourne Stoke  - mail@daphne-smith.com
  • Richard Hewitt: Contact for Stockton and Wylye - rshewitt@btinternet.com
  • Neal Fox, Gill Leake: Contacts for Steeple Langford, Hanging Langford and Little Langford - foxneil41@gmail.com or gillleake@aol.com

*Heather works at Church House, Salisbury 9am to 5pm Mondays to Wednesdays and 9am to 1pm on Thursdays. Heather is available Monday to Thursday 8am to 9pm for urgent safeguarding discussions via 07500 664800.