Rector's Letters

From Rev. A. N. Berry, Rector of St James', Abinger Common and Vicar of Christ Church, Colharbour

March/April 2020

We live in anxious times. We are finding ourselves required to exercise restraint, consideration and fortitude. We may have to dig deep to find the inner resources we need to strengthen ourselves for the days ahead.

Of course one of our first concerns is for those around us who are vulnerable and have no obvious support. If you know of someone and are concerned for their wellbeing do let the Parish Office know and we will do our best to help out. Alongside that our thoughts and prayers are with those who are unwell and under medical supervision, and those caring for them.

Our thoughts and prayers are also with those whose livelihoods are affected by the changes that have been introduced. Many in our communities face an uncertain future.

The Church of England alongside other denominations has called for a national day of prayer on Sunday 22nd March. Although public worship has been suspended, our churches will remain open, and I will be in church at some point to offer prayers on behalf of our communities as part of our response to the call from the national church to pray for our world, our nation, and our local communities.

Jesus often said "Do not be afraid", or "Peace be with you". It shows how in touch with his disciples feelings he was.

He also gave them some very simple but hard to follow advice "So do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will care for itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own," He was giving that advice in the context of teaching people to trust God more. In our self-sufficient and entitled age this is a challenging concept.

So may we seek to follow that advice day by day as we put our trust in God.

My thoughts and prayers are with you all.

From the Rector's Desk

If you are concerned about anything or anyone to feel free to get in touch. If talking on the phone would help then do please make the most of the opportunity that seems appropriate.

The Church of England website has a lot of material to help us with prayer and worship while our regular services are suspended, www,churchofengland.org.uk Do please avail yourself of these. We will try to keep our own website up to date and give as much information as possible, as well as thoughts and prayers from the ministry team from across the Benefice.

There are a range of Christian resources already available:

February 2020

The New Year has begun! I realise of course that you know that, the purpose of my opening statement is not so much about imparting information as it is about celebrating the fact that a milestone has been passed and we are heading for another similar one albeit 11 months [or thereabouts] in the future. Milestones are important; they help us get our bearings, they can be both an encouragement or a cause for despair. They can help us gain a perspective which can also spur us on or cause us to slow down.

Of course, New Year is a milestone that we share with the rest of society, but there are other ones too. Some are personal like birthdays and wedding anniversaries. Some are collective or community based like the Fete or Fair. Others are faith based like Christmas and Easter, or other Festivals or Saints Days. Perhaps even in January you may have passed a milestone already although 2020 is still in its infancy, but before you know it 2020 will be in its old age and countless milestones will have been passed.

So how will you treat those milestones as they come into sight and then fade into the distance? Will you be able to take the positive view and celebrate, even the sad ones? I do hope you will. Each milestone is like a brick, (if you will forgive the mixed metaphor), a building block for your life; together those bricks can build something beautiful. There is a danger that if we are not careful to seek the positive in those months we are reflecting on, we might be in danger of spoiling our building by putting something ugly in the walls. Jesus had some advice concerning building. He taught that it was better to build on rock rather than sand [Matthew ch 7 v24-29]. St Paul also used the analogy of a building when he was advising the Christians in Corinth [ 1 Corinthians ch 3 v10-15].

These two passages make interesting reading. They give us an insight into what the Christian perspective of building a life might be like, how we might make the most of the opportunities each year may bring to build something beautiful. I think that is something to celebrate!

Happy New Year!

From the Rector's Desk

Thank you so much to everyone who made our Christmas celebrations such fun in 2019! Both churches looked great thanks to our flower ladies. Thanks for all those who worked hard making Christingles for each church. For everyone who read at the Carol Services and to the choir members who enhanced our worship at so many services. And thanks too to those of you who joined us at some point over Christmas it was lovely to see you, come again!

Ash Wednesday is on 26th of February, do join us at Holmbury at 7.30 pm in St Mary's as we begin Lent together.

December/January 2019

I was staring at my compost heap the other day. It is not a thing of beauty particularly but for some reason it made me stop and look. I had wandered down the garden with the suitable bits and pieces from the kitchen waste and dumped it on the top and let it sit there until it was joined by the grass cuttings and fallen leaves. Now before the informed gardeners of the community contact me and give their advice on the best way to obtain home developed compost, may I simply say the whole point of my musings was that I am not a gardener. Nor do I necessarily want to improve my compost heap. From my point of view it does what I want it to do, and in due time it will provide me with some compost. So why was I staring at this heap? My imagination was caught by the thought that stuff that is counted as rubbish can be turned into something that it useful and can enhance growth.

Life can throw some real blinders at us sometimes. Loss, grief, misfortune come to us all, and for some it comes in spades. Somehow or other we try and if not overcome it, at least learn to live with it.

Mary was suddenly confronted with the discovery that her reputation was going to be assaulted and that her betrothed would have serious doubts about her. Her consolation was that she wanted to be faithful and obedient to God's purpose. How much that helped when tongues wagged and hurtful comments were made is impossible to know, but I suspect the truth is that she found it hard.

She must have wondered even more about things when she had to make the journey south to Bethlehem in the last stages of pregnancy and then found that the only sleeping place available was with the livestock. Then discovering that the child's birth had put their lives in danger and had to become refugees in a foreign land just added to the situation.

All that rubbish. Yet by God's grace something wonderful came out of it all - the offer of eternal life! May you all have a very blessed Christmas, And a Happy New Year.

From the Rector's Desk

Thanks to everyone who made Remembrance Sunday a special day, by attending or taking part.

So much happening in December; do make sure you know about Chrstingles, and Carol services, Christmas day services, etc.

SJ's Cafe is having a focus on Crisis at Christmas with a bring and buy on the 4th of December - do support this important charity if you possibly can.

I do hope we have the pleasure of seeing you at one of our services over the Christmas.

November 2019

November is here again. The other day I heard on the radio someone mention the number of sleeps before Christmas. The big festival is coming! Everywhere will be getting ready, if they haven't started already.

Usually I use this opportunity to complain a bit about how stores bombard us with Christmas stuff far too early and it all seems to commercialise the Day itself. So I won't mention that. But I thought I would just think about the whole business of getting ready.

The Church in its wisdom also thinks we should focus on getting ready, admittedly not till the end of November or the first days of December. However it is not thinking about getting ready for Christmas. It is about getting ready for a much bigger and significant event. It wants us to get ready for the future! Christmas day will come and go, and hopefully a wonderful time will be had by all, and we will repeat it again next year and so on. But what the Church is encouraging us to prepare for has a cosmic dimension. Each week in our services we remind ourselves of Christ's promise to return. Now whether that is before the next publication of Parish News or much further into the future is not the issue.

The issue is about reminding people about the fragility of life. For those who have no belief in an afterlife such fragility does not have the same significance as it does to those who do. For them when life comes to an end the question of preparedness will be one that needs an answer. The Christian view of that is about faith making a difference to the people we are. Advent is the Church's way of reminding us of that. Jesus also reminded us; with simple stories of people being caught out without oil for their lamps, that our lives reflect how prepared we might be.

One version of the hymn "Sing Hosanna", begins with "Give me oil in my lamp keep me praising". Perhaps we would do well to think about how our lives reflect a burning light, What is it that keeps us burning? Where is our source of oil? There is a reason Advent pre-cedes Christmas. It wants to ask the question before giving the answer.

From the Rector's Desk

A big thank you to all those who made Harvest such a great celebration. There was a wonderful selection of food, not just from the congregation but the school and nursery as well, that went to the food bank [Note to self - must remember there is a collection box in church not just at Harvest]. We also raised well over £400 to give to Compassion's Togo project. So thank so much everyone.

Do remember our Remembrance Day services at 10.50am on the 10th of November.

Our new Benefice Associate Minister will be licensed on the 21st. Our prayers are with David and Judith as they move and begin their time here, and of course for David's ministry among us

Our Alpha course starts this month, it is not too late to join in if you want to. Mad and Hilary would love to see you, details from the Parish office.

October 2019

October is the month we celebrate Harvest. I suppose this is a leftover from a pre-mechanical age or it could be just a typical Church of England thing of being late to the party. Whatever the date we celebrate it, its significance as a festival should never be underestimated, yet for many it gets lost amongst the busyness of modern day life. It comes as children are finding their stride back at school, students are recovering from freshers week, some young people have begun working and earning for the first time, while for many it is back in the old routine after the summer months.

Although, I have to say, that is not so for me this year. In 2004/5 l was fortunate enough to clock up enough years to enable me to have an "extended study leave", formerly known as a sabbatical. In theory l was due another one in 2011, but for various reasons I wasn't able to take it then, and so finally l have got round to booking it in. So after Harvest l am away till Remembrance.

As l have pondered on the matter over the last few days I realize how fortunate I am. Not simply to have the opportunity for a study break, which other people don't get, but the chance to stand back from things, to take stock and simply lie fallow. Just like the soil after Harvest. I am very lucky, not many have such a chance.

That is why we need to make Harvest a Festival. It connects us with Creation's rhythm. It is not simply about the food cycle, or giving tins to those less fortunate, important those things may be. It is about recognizing our dependence. Dependence on those who are part of the process of taking the raw material and getting it to our tables. Dependence on creation itself to provide the raw material in the first place. And finally as Jesus pointed out dependence on the God of creation, "Consider the birds of the air they neither sow nor reap or store in barns,yet your heavenly Father feeds them, Are you not much more valuable than they?"

From the Rector's Desk

Our Alpha Course begins on the 7th of October, This is your chance to ask questions about the Christian faith in a friendly environment; no question is too simple, no question is too wierd, All done around a meal togehter. More details available from the Parish office.

Don't forget the shoe box appeal!

We had two fun events during September. In St James' despite the warning of never work with children and animals we held an All Age Pet Service. It was more of a Dog Service but was great fun with owners answering quiz questions to win homemade dog biscuits for their pets. In Christ Church we had Harbour Hymns, Coldharbour's answer to Songs of Praise. It was lovely to hear people's choice of hymn and what it meant to them. The choir led us beautifully as well as singing two anthems for us.

Do, please, join us for our joint Harvest Service this year in Abinger on 6th of October at 10.30 am. Followed as usual by our Auction of home produce and gifts, All dried and tinned goods will go to the Dorking Foodbank.

September 2019

The new academic year has begun. September is a month of contrasts. For some it will be a new beginning, for others it simply means more of the same. While some of us recover from a time away, others will be looking forward to taking a break when everything is a lot less crowded. The weather itself can reflect both summer and autumn.

Those two seasons have such a different feel. Summer seems bursting with potential and fulfillment, autumn has the inevitable sense of decline, or is it just my perspective that chooses to see things that way?

The disciples of Jesus experienced a roller coaster for the three or so years that they spent with Jesus. Sometimes it was full of potential, other times, so much was happening that they barely had time to catch their breath. On occasion it was quite challenging, even frightening, but there were also occasions when it seemed it was all pointless and had come to an end.

What was it that enabled most of them to stick with it, and make the most of it? We all know that packing for a holiday can be a nightmare, especially if we end up packing for others, or someone in the party has not recognised the laws of physics relating to volume and space. However we put up with it because we know that, at worst, we have to do it in order to go anywhere; or at best, because we are going to have a great time when we get there.

Something about spending time with Jesus made it all worthwhile. Indeed, in time, it was something that many of them were prepared to give their lives for. For them, life had become a perpetual September, still filled with the promise of summer despite all the difficulties associated with autumn.

Whatever you feel about September, l hope this month works out well. If it is change, may it bring much joy and excitement; if it is more of the same, may it bring much happiness and contentment.

From the Rector's Desk

First l am delighted to announce that the Revs David and Judith Grundy will be moving into the Benefice in due course. David will be taking up the post of Associate Minister within the Benefice and be based in Holmbury.

Well it is time to look ahead, in the near distance we have a Pet's service in St James' on the 15th, do please join us for what might be a chaotic but fun time. That evening at Christ Church we have a repeat of Harbour Hymns - Christ Church's answer to Songs of Praise. Do join us as members of our community choose hymns that have significance and meaning for them.

Looking a bit further, on the 21st in St James we are repeating our anti- slavery weekend of a few years ago. Do join us for coffee and Danish between 9.30 -11.30 and a chance to buy some early Christmas gifts made by those trying make a living to prevent getting into slavery. If you can't make the morning then come between 2pm and 4pm that afternoon for tea and cake instead.

At the end of the month we have a Benefice service in Coldharbour at 10am, with input and design from those recently confirmed. Then the following week on the 6th of October we have our joint Harvest service at Abinger at 10.30am. Looking into the far distance can we give you a heads up about our annual shoe box appeal. We will probably be putting the boxes together on the weekend of 12/13th of October. So if you can start collecting toiletries, colouring books, scarves etc that would be great. If you want the full list please get in touch with the Parish Office.

July/August 2019

It is tempting to think that, as this is a double issue of the Parish News, l can think about the summer and all the time people will spend away from home. But as l reflect on the people l know in the parish, the old "summer holiday" idea doesn't apply to many of them. Of course children will be off school but that doesn't mean that the streets will be empty and no one will be around. It is hard to find a focus for activities however because different people will be off at different times and the holiday season for our community as a whole stretches in September. In today's world the old ideas have changed and new ways of doing things, including holidays, have taken their place. Of course grumpy old men like me [and indeed l know a few like me in our communities, no names of course, but you know who you are] tend to hark back to the good old days. But, as they say, even nostalgia is not as good as it used to be.

What does remain the same is our need for a break. It can become difficult to sustain a rhythm in life. Rest and relaxation are all part of that rhythm and we ignore it at our peril. Sometimes, with the energy that comes in one's middle years it is hard to see the need; equally when life is lived at a fast pace in work, family and social lives, as often happens when you are younger, you can feel a desperate need to stop.

Jesus was keenly aware of both the demands of change and the need to rest. He recognised that the religious stricture of the day didn't match with the life most people were living. It excluded them from managing to see God the way Jesus knew Him to be. He spoke in terms of new wine in old wineskins and the danger of things being spoilt. It called for a new understanding. But he also saw that people needed to take real rest. He reminded his hearers that the Sabbath was made for people, so they could rest from the demands of life, he also encouraged his followers to take a break when they were very busy.

The church struggles to know how to help people meet the needs of how life is today. It wants to be relevant, but not lose sight of the timeless nature of its faith. It wants to engage with an unbelieving population but knows how easy it would be to compromise or give up the very foundation on which it is built.

However, that is more my problem than yours. What you need to do, if the weather ever gets anywhere near being summery, is too make sure you make the most of it. Get out there and enjoy yourselves and come back refreshed, that is what summer is meant to be about.

From the Rector's desk:

Both Fete and Fair were great events. The latter in spite of the rain - a big thank you to all who worked so hard to make them successes.

As usual, the pattern of services changes a bit over the summer, so do please check the PN for what is happening, where, and at what time.

Advance warning of St James' Pet service in September on the 15th at 10.30 followed by a picnic lunch and a few games.

Also look out in other pages in PN for our concern about modern slavery and what we might do to combat it.

June 2019

Mid-summer approaches! Where did the first half of the year go? Stupid opening really, but l find it difficult to think that by the end of the month the days will be closing in already. I don't really feel that the year has begun yet but the calendar doesn't lie, we are where we are. All those New Year resolutions that were time limited still incomplete All those things that need to be done in spring and didn't get done. All the things that help get ready for any summer break queuing up to be sorted so you can get away. Is it any wonder that life can feel that it is, or has, run away from you? It is so hard to differentiate from the urgent and the important, from the necessary and preferable, from the inconsequential and the desirable. Sadly, although most of these dilemmas are first-world issues they are still ones that exercise our time, our energy, and our resources.

The first disciples of Jesus lived in a very different world. Their lives depended on a very different sort of economy. Their options were far more limited. They were subject to all sorts of vagaries and changing circumstances over which they had no control and although this was first-century Palestine much of our world today finds itself in a similar position [albeit with a different sort of technology available which has both advantages and disadvantages]. Yet, Jesus spoke to them about an approach to life which may speak as much to us in the Western world of the 21st century.

His simple sentence saying " why worry about tomorrow, tomorrow has enough worries of its own", challenges us to let go of a lot that can wear us down. His attitudes to the necessities of life reminding us that beauty and provision can still be found in most circumstances and are not as vital as we sometimes make them out to be. His warning about how some reaction patterns can end up being destructive, not just to the psyche but even to life itself.

I don't think Jesus wants us to throw the baby out with the bathwater and live life like a first-century, middle-eastern person, but l do think by paying attention to his insights on life we can get rid of the dirty water and enjoy not just holding the baby but playing with it, having fun with it and see it grow, and just maybe surprise us with where it all ends up.

Enjoy the summer in all its fullness!

From the Rector's Desk

A big thank you to all those who worked so hard to make the Coldharbour Fete go so well. Special thanks to the stall holders and to those who gave up time to set it all up….and take it all down again!

The church looked wonderful as it does every year, thanks to the endeavours of our flower ladies.

Do join us on the green at Abinger Common for the Abinger Fair on Saturday 8th June.

Special services in June:

Please join us if you can at any or all of the above.

May 2019

The summer term is upon us. Two bank holidays to look forward to, and the variety of community activities that the summer season brings. These activities demand a great deal of time and energy to put on, and it always amazes me, that given the stress involved, we never seem to end up like Midsomer, and have a murder or two as the events unfold. Far from it, these activities seem to build and reflect our communities.

Each year people are prepared to play a part, sometimes it feels that it is the same group valiantly putting things together, but the truth is that although it feels like that, each year one or two begin their involvement and the events roll on year by year taking each crisis as it comes and probably being the stronger for it, although it may not feel like it at the time. We are indebted to those who work so hard on our community's behalf.

Right in the middle of this season of activity is the church's celebration of Pentecost or Whitsun as it used to be known. This celebration of the birth of the church is also a celebration of the way God uses people. He changed those disciples of old from a group of rather anxious people into fellowship of determined and committed followers.

He brought out peoples' gifts and used them to the benefit of not just their friends, but to people all around them. Their willingness to be involved, to use their time, energy and money for the greater good meant that the church grew from a small number of people who had heard Jesus physically, to a worldwide movement of people who had heard Jesus in a spiritual manner.

Sometimes the circumstances of the present prevent us from learning from the past. We worry about how we will manage to continue given all the difficulties we face. Yet the story of the church from those early days is that God is much bigger than circumstances and the message of Pentecost is that He will bring out the right gifts for the right time. Over time things will change and develop and we might be anxious about finding people to fill certain gaps but the Church will continue; God has not let it disappear yet, and l don't believe He is about to now.

From the Rector's Desk

A very big thank you to Christ Church for hosting the Benefice Mothering Sunday service. And also a very big thank you to Patsy Simpson for the lovely posies we were able to give to every lady present, they were beautiful.

Continuing in that vein, a big thank you to all the flower ladies who made our churches look so lovely on Easter day.

Don't forget the Coldharbour fete on the 18th!

Thanks also to those who helped with the spring clean at St James', especially Sally our hardworking Parish secretary who organised it all.

April 2019

As I write, the people of New Zealand are still coming to terms with a mass killing in Christchurch; friends of ours are visiting their daughter who lives there and one can only guess at what their feelings are. Our thoughts and prayers are with those who mourn the violent loss of a loved one, and those who survived the traumatic event.

We all face surprising events at some point in our lives, not on this tragic scale perhaps; but certainly things that make us sit up and ask questions about human nature, the fragility of life and maybe even the meaning of our existence. For some no doubt those can be life changing events, but l guess for most of us, the moment passes; and we are none the wiser, despite all the questions that have been raised and the time we have spent pondering on them. Answers are often in short supply, or so it seems.

At the 2018 Beach Mission we held a Sports Quiz Night; as in previous years it was very popular, over 60 people crammed into the venue. What is it that makes people come to such an occasion, is it simply the competitive spirit? Indeed our friends, referred to earlier, are often at those quizzes and are fiercely competitive. I've seen it within our own parish boundaries too!. It is all good fun, but underneath it all is the satisfaction that we can answer stuff, and that is a good feeling.

Yet it is hard when we come up against those things for which we don't have an answer or maybe just a sort of generic, catch all, vague, sort of response rather than a real answer. It reminds me of the Peanuts Cartoon [for those of you who remember them] where I think Linus was carrying a placard saying "Jesus is the answer!" and Snoopy came along behind with one saying "What is the question?"

People in Jesus' day often looked at events and tried to read things into them, given the nature of their culture and society they often used to invoke God and that used to leave some feeling rather smug. Even today people with faith can seem rather smug. Jesus challenged that thinking when questioned about specific tragic events of his day and made people reflect upon their own lives and situations. In the same chapter His parables acknowledge how hard finding answers can be, but having found them he explained how they can can change the whole of your life, not in a smug way, but in a deeply sustaining way. Personally, l think Linus was right, the challenge is finding what Snoopy was looking for. [Hint -Good Friday and Easter may help!]

From the Rector's Desk

Do look out for all our services over the Holy Week and Easter period [14th-21st, we'd love to see you.

It is Annual Parochial Church Meeting time:

We have to renew the Church Electoral roll, so if you are part of the Church community do make sure you have filled in a form, further details from the Parish Office.

March 2019

The days are gradually getting longer, within weeks the clocks will change and the prospect of a spring that is followed by summer is no longer a forlorn hope carried wistfully in secret during the winter months.

Of course we may have lots of other forlorn hopes that we carry. The results we wanted but did not get, the house we wanted but were beaten to by someone else; the promotion, the pay rise, the new job, all hoped for but never achieved. These along with a thousand others, some of which are too painful to acknowledge, make up the challenges we face as we go through life. Sometimes l wonder how some people manage to carry on. The sad truth is that there is no fairness about them. Some people have more than their fair share of disappointment and difficulty, others either by luck or character seem to weather such storms as they face, and some never seem to face many at all. Yet, sadly, it may take only one such challenge to throw someone completely off balance and find it hard, maybe even impossible, to get back up again

For most of us we make our way as best we can, and thankfully we manage to get the most out of our life. I have been struck in recent days about the coverage in the news about teenage suicide and self- harming. It is so tragic that those who have so much potential stretching out before them should find life intolerable and all hope extinguished.

The Bible presents us with countless stories of dashed hopes, moral failures; lives, blighted by people or circumstances. It is a realistic book reflecting the human condition portrayed in stories collected over the centuries. But it also gives us glimpses of hope as we see the redeeming nature of God at work in those who are prepared to risk putting their trust in him. These glimpses do much in countering the forlorn hopes l may nurse; they remind me of a bigger picture, one that has an eternal perspective. The one that speaks to me most is Jesus parable of two men praying. One had everything going for them but had lost sight of reality and attributed his good fortune to himself; the other recognised his weaknesses and failures and asked for God’s help.

Some of the troubles and dashed hopes we face may be trivial, others may be devastating but both can be brought to God and we can ask his help to face them.

From the Rector's Desk

We are really looking forward to Bishop Jo, the Bishop of Dorking, joining us on the 3rd of March. She is, to my mind, an inspirational preacher; do please take this opportunity to hear her.

Ash Wednesday marks the beginning of Lent on March 6th we have our benefice service at St James’ at 8.00pm It is a said Communion service with the imposition of ashes for those who would like it. During Lent there will be a service for the benefice of Compline at 8pm on each Wednesday from the 13th onwards at Holmbury. It is a real chance to stop and think and reflect amidst the business of our weekly rush.

If you would like a bit of Bible study, Hilary is leading a series on the 7 signs of John’s Gospel. The next one is on the 19th of March in the Barn at the Plough in Coldharbour at 8pm

Right at the end of the month is Mothering Sunday which will be celebrated at Christ Church and as it is a 5th Sunday all the benefice will be celebrating together.

February 2019

As usual for Parish News we are one month in when l come to put pen to paper or rather digits to keyboard. Gone are the hopes expressed in New Year’s resolutions, replaced in some cases by a sense of failure and in others a great sense of relief. Gone is the bonhomie of the Christmas season, replaced by the pushing and shoving in post-Christmas Sales. Gone is the friendship expressed in Christmas cards as they drop on the mat replaced by credit card bills and worries about self-assessment tax returns. Real life asserts itself again.

We should not be surprised by this, it happens every year. One response might be to join the “bah humbug” brigade, and in the future ignore the hope expressed in our Christmas festivities. Yet by and large we don’t, come December we will find ourselves caught up with it once again. That, l believe, is because the eternal message of a God who cares enough to enter our world strikes a chord in every heart, or at least most of us even if it only remains for a few brief weeks.

The disciples found it hard to hang on to some of the wonderful moments they had with Jesus. After one incredible encounter with God on a mountain top three of them returned with Jesus and found the experience completely overshadowed by the desperate need of the son of one unfortunate man. So too with us. A simple read of the newspapers, will make us aware of all sorts of seemingly unsolvable problems both at home and abroad. Jesus response to the disciples’ confusion about why it was so hard to help the boy was to point them to prayer; in fact the phrase he used was “much prayer”.

Perhaps if we were to ask for God’s help a little more, learn to trust him in spite of what we may feel about prayers that don’t seem to be answered; be prepared to persevere with prayer beyond the first approach well into the future; then maybe, just maybe the transition from Christmas to the new year may not be so much of a contrast. Because our hopes and expectations, our sense of understanding of our fellow humans, and our sense of responsibilities have been formed over the months by a relationship with God forged by regular prayer and thanksgiving; based on the truth that God has come amongst us in the person of Jesus Christ and revealed his love grace and mercy in doing so. Worth a try l think.

From the Rector's Desk

Thanks so much to everyone who worked so hard to make our celebrations of Christmas such fun. Advance warning on a couple things. First Ash Wednesday is on March 6th. We will be marking that as a Benefice in St James’ at 8pm.

But before that on March 3rd Bishop Jo Bailey-Wells is coming to preach at our 10.30 service. It would be lovely to have a good turn out to welcome her.

December 2018 and January 2019

The end of the year is in sight, and the New Year soon to follow. We will mark the change in one way or another with a party or simply on our own. We move from one year to the other and the seasonal cycle begins once again. What might this coming year hold? We cannot be sure, some things might be certain, but how we feel and react when we come to them has no such surety.

There is a similarity with Christmas presents from certain people, you know it is coming, but whether you can manage to look excited about it is an open question. When Jesus received those first Christmas presents of Gold, Frankincense and Myrrh, l am not sure what face he pulled, or even if he noticed them at all, but we know that his mother pondered on the matter. What did the gifts mean, why had these foreigners travelled so far just to bring them? They were looking beyond the immediate and transient to something that was eternal and everlasting, and their gifts reflected that.

In a sense the New Year is a present, it is a gift that we receive; none of us knows how many gifts of “New Years”, we may have in a lifetime. How will this one treat us, and we it? What will we make of it. Will we make the most of each days potential, or for whatever reason will we only manage to get some of it. At the end of 2019 will we feel good about what we have achieved or will we feel that we have squandered a lot of what we could have done? And when the sum total of all those gifts is tallied, what will we have done that will last beyond our lifetime.

Jesus’ advice on how to make the most of each day, was to trust God, by seeking His Kingdom first and the rest would sort itself, or “be added unto you” to use a more biblical phrase. And maybe that is the way to take every New Year, one day at a time putting our trust in God and seeking the Kingdom of God, its values, its hopes, and its presence.

King George reminded our nation of this in 1939 when facing a most daunting coming New Year 'I said to the man who stood at the Gate of the Year, "Give me a light that I may tread safely into the unknown." And he replied, "Go out into the darkness, and put your hand into the Hand of God. That shall be to you better than light, and safer than a known way."'

A very joyous Christmas, and Happy New Year from Mad and myself to you all!

From the Rector's Desk

Thank you for the many kind messages on our 25 years amongst you, and for those who came and took part in our communion service on the 4th of November.

Both our Remembrance Day services were extremely well attended, which was great, and thank you to those who took part and contributed to those Centennial events.

Our usual array of Christmas services are listed so do please come along to those, and also to the Quiet Spaces service in St James’ at the beginning of the month, take the most of the opportunity to have some quiet reflective space before it all kicks off, lovely though that is.Of course we may have lots of other forlorn hopes that we carry. The results we wanted but did not get, the house we wanted but were beaten to by someone else; the promotion, the pay rise, the new job, all hoped for but never achieved. These along with a thousand others, some of which are too painful to acknowledge, make up the challenges we face as we go through life. Sometimes l wonder how some people manage to carry on. The sad truth is that there is no fairness about them. Some people have more than their fair share of disappointment and difficulty, others either by luck or character seem to weather such storms as they face, and some never seem to face many at all. Yet, sadly, it may take only one such challenge to throw someone completely off balance and find it hard, maybe even impossible, to get back up again.

For most of us we make our way as best we can, and thankfully we manage to get the most out of our life. I have been struck in recent days about the coverage in the news about teenage suicide and self- harming. It is so tragic that those who have so much potential stretching out before them should find life intolerable and all hope extinguished.

The Bible presents us with countless stories of dashed hopes, moral failures; lives, blighted by people or circumstances. It is a realistic book reflecting the human condition portrayed in stories collected over the centuries. But it also gives us glimpses of hope as we see the redeeming nature of God at work in those who are prepared to risk putting their trust in him. These glimpses do much in countering the forlorn hopes l may nurse; they remind me of a bigger picture, one that has an eternal perspective. The one that speaks to me most is Jesus parable of two men praying. One had everything going for them but had lost sight of reality and attributed his good fortune to himself; the other recognised his weaknesses and failures and asked for God’s help.

Some of the troubles and dashed hopes we face may be trivial, others may be devastating but both can be brought to God and we can ask his help to face them.