Rector’s letter — October 2017

Dear all

As I write this, I’m just off to take my last wedding of the season, and autumn is upon us.  I do enjoy taking weddings — they are always a privilege.

There is something about the simplicity and clarity of the wedding vows — an ideal held up for us to live to — that strikes me afresh.  I try, at every wedding, to make clear that as we fall short of our vows, we need to live as people who keep short accounts, that we regularly and explicitly forgive one another for not taking the very best care of each other.

Marriage lived well acts as a sign of how we, married or otherwise, should lead the whole of our lives.  We live as people and community, for the better of all.  Living, loving, forgiving, enabling — we bear with one another, and move on with the future and its challenge set before us.

Yours, as ever,
Stephen

Rector’s letter — August 2017

Dear all

The other day I found myself wandering around my old theological college.  It’d been quite a while since I had last visited, perhaps some 15 years or so, and I hadn’t arranged to visit.  Some things had changed — the local off-licence where we bought our wine had had its windows bricked up and was now student accommodation, but the heart of the college was reassuringly familiar.  The notice boards could have been from my day, except I noticed that it was one of my contemporaries who was advertised as the learned speaker on St Augustine in a talk at the university.  They were still keeping the tradition  of letting half the garden at the centre of the college flourish as ‘maintained wilderness’ — all looked very familiar.

I made my way to the chapel — the heart of the college — where we would meet before breakfast, evening meal and bedtime for formal-yet-infomal prayers.  I was disturbed because I could not find the bell that used to summon us to prayers each day.  A woman in her late twenties was sitting quietly in the back, taking some time out during the day.  I asked where the bell had gone — I had mis-remembered — it was 10 yards away from the chapel door, outside the entrance to the library.  Not wanting to disturb her further, I did not stay, but not before gazing into the distance, looking for the icon in the chancel.  Although I could not make it out at that distance, I knew well the words written on it:
“The one who calls you is faithful”.

I’d like to leave you with that thought — that as we grow older, and both remember and mis-remeber who we are and what we have been doing, that God himself knows and remembers who we are, and is faithful to us as we seek to find and follow him.  Do take some time this summer to reflect, to be thankful for the good and for the grace to live through the bad.  Place yourself into the hands of the Lord, return, offer yourself, seek and find — the one who calls you is faithful.

Yours, as ever
Stephen

Rector’s letter — June 2017

Dear All

I write mid-May, just as the grass is making its mind up to grow, even though we have had only a little rain thus far.
There is always a balance between the different types of resources that are needed for things to flourish — for grass this could be too little rain or too much sun — and we are no exception to this rule.
We need love and encouragement, freedom and discipline, the company of friends and a right sort of solitude, an openness to the needs of others and also the ability to get on with things where we are.
This is true of us in adult life, but especially true of us in our childhood and teenage years — and I write aware that many young people in our villages are sitting important public exams this summer.
Some of us may remember the Byrds’ song “Turn, turn, turn” from the mid-60s, which borrowed much of its lyrics from the Bible.  Here’s the original in a modern translation:
For everything there is a season, and a time for every matter under heaven: 
a time to be born, and a time to die;
a time to plant, and a time to pluck up what is planted; 
a time to kill, and a time to heal;
a time to break down, and a time to build up; 
a time to weep, and a time to laugh;
a time to mourn, and a time to dance; 
a time to throw away stones, and a time to gather stones together;
a time to embrace, and a time to refrain from embracing; 
a time to seek, and a time to lose;
a time to keep, and a time to throw away; 
a time to tear, and a time to sew;
a time to keep silence, and a time to speak; 
a time to love, and a time to hate;
a time for war, and a time for peace.
This reading reflects the balance of much of life, and the theme of the book from the Bible from which it comes is about how and where we find our meaning in it all, if indeed we do.
Starting from quite a negative position, the writer ends up being gently open to God whilst struggling with the mystery of it all.
Let us all press on, and find a right and holy balance in all that we do — especially our young folk taking exams:  remember that you are worth so much more that any exam system can ever grade you!
All the best
Stephen

Rector’s letter — April 2017

Dear All

I’ve just come back from leading a confirmation retreat for some 30 teenagers (mostly GCSE and A-level students) who are preparing for their confirmation the week after Easter.
As most of you most probably know, confirmation is a step along the Christian journey joined-at-the-hip to our baptism or christening.
We declare publicly that this journey is for us and the bishop prays for us, anointing us with the same oil of blessing used at our baptism.
The bishop prays for us that God will confirm in us what has already begun with the his Holy Spirit.
We often use the term “christening” — literally “being made like Christ” to refer to baptism, and that’s what is going on in confirmation too.

During the retreat, we looked at three parts of the Christian journey that we carry with us — that we are beloved by God, on how God forgives us as we turn to him, and on how God sustains us, both through ordinary and holy things — along with plenty of space for each person to engage with what that means for them.

Perhaps that too should be something we can all do to, as Lent draws to a close and Easter bursts upon us — reflect on the fact that we are beloved, forgiven as we turn, and sustained though ordinary and holy things ourselves, and so discover more of God’s presence with us.

Yours, as ever,
Stephen