On Christmas Eve Wentworth Church has held a carol procession by candlelight ever since I started it way back in 1992. In that year 110 people came and, evidently, enjoyed the experience because they have kept coming back, year after year. The general trend since then (except when snow and ice have intervened) has been upwards and in 2010 the attendance was 275. But this last Christmas there was an exponential jump in numbers and the church was absolutely packed (and that is not an exaggeration! We actually ended up with families turning away at the door). We counted the candles we gave out, and there were 425. Amazing! And a record for an act of worship here, surely? As well as a wonderful start for Christmas for those who came, especially for the children. £550 was donated afterwards and this was given away, as it always is, this time split 50/50 between Crisis at Christmas (who work with the homeless) and Bluebell Wood Hospice. Mark Wigglesworth, the Bishop's Evangelism Officer, says that
It is really illogical to regard a single date as a new start, but we do, most of us, think of New Year in that way. The church's calendar supports this as, during the first few months of the year, we shall be recalling our Lord's baptism and then his presentation in the Temple. The latter was rather more like the way families use baptism today, the time when parents brought their babies to church in an act of thanksgiving.
What will 2012 bring? We think we know and may already have booked things like holidays. But in fact, of course, we don't know if we shall be doing any of the things we imagine we will. Even in the 21st Century, life is uncertain. I am sure you know the lines which follow, though perhaps not the
An encouraging discussion was held at Harley Mission (the church's proper name) last month. Of course there were one or two items of business to dispose of, such as what to do about the sycamore trees growing near the building, but most of the time was spent talking about how to reach out to the community and to make our worship more attractive. One or two conclusions were that:
• coffee will be served after all services, not just once a month, giving an opportunity to chat and get to know each other better;
• whenever there is a 5th Sunday in the month, as there is in January, we shall have informal worship in the church room;
• we may try to vary the communion service more, as the book ours is based on has lots of choices;
• Corinne, one of our Sunday School teachers, would like to explore starting a village choir for young people.
You may wonder what does go on inside a church. Well, come and find out, and give us your opinion about how we could do things better.
I was taken aback last month by the numbers wishing to recall a loved member of their family at the Memorial Services held in our churches. “The memory of the just is blessed” as it says in the bible [Proverbs 10:7]. Special people, in other words, and those who have meant a lot to us remain important to us, however long it is. One can forget this when engaged in the normal surface chit-chat with a person, but often just beneath is a deep and lasting sense of loss. I hope that bringing that memory to church and recalling that we all, on earth and in heaven, stand before the same throne of God, has helped.
You will see in this month's calendar there is to be a meeting at Harley Church on 7th November. Such meetings take the place of a committee, which we don't have down there. Hurray! I say (sorry, PCC, I really am aware that larger churches can't be run on the principal of one man, one vote). Anyway, this is important because the congregation is in a bit of 'down' patch at the moment. We need to think about ways we can grow the church in the village which is,
I was writing about weddings last time. A phrase from the service goes like this - “marriage is a gift of God in creation.” Christians will believe different things about how involved God has been in making the universe but, as a minimum, if we believe in an Almighty God, we must agree that the world cannot have been brought to be without His will and agreement. Even wasps! Which seem to have sworn a personal vendetta against me this autumn. Incidentally, I discovered the answer to a question which has long puzzled me recently. What are wasps for? It seems they have a useful function in controlling other bugs, something for which gardeners should be grateful.
This month once again we celebrate harvest. We have all noticed food prices rising recently and it doesn't look as though there is going to be any let up in this. Rather the reverse in fact. Over the next two to three decades the earth is going to struggle to feed its population. That's because there is going to be a
If you live in the village you'll have heard the church bells ringing a lot this summer for weddings. It will happen even more in 2012 when no less than 37 bookings have been made! The pressure is now easing off with only about nine more to go in 2011. I say 'pressure' because there is quite a team of people involved in providing a memorable day for the couples. Carolyne Gregory and Jim deal with the bookings side; Mike Wood writes up the registers; Richard, the choir and Chris are on duty on the day itself; Geoff has quite a bit of work to allocate the fees; Vicky Hunton and the bell ringers are usually called upon of course; Wendy Lomas and her colleague sometimes provide flowers; and Sharon, our cleaner, gets the place neat ands tidy both before and after. I hope I haven't forgotten anybody! Except me, of course.
Is all this work worth it? Quite apart from anything else, it is if the bride and groom have a great day. But there are longer term benefits as well. Social research indicates that children living with married parents have, on average,
I've mentioned it once, but the news is worth repeating. Simon Brown from Harley has now been accepted onto the Reader training course. It involves three year's study but, already, he has been leading worship at Harley and will in future be doing so at Wentworth too. He will be a tremendous asset in the future and I hope you will support him with your prayers and, maybe, with good advice. He is not a replacement for Redz, who is still very active, but it will mean that in future the parish will have more resources to call on.
On Sunday 10th July I put a plate out for the Disasters Emergency Committee appeal for East Africa and have forwarded to them the amount of £75. This will add to the many millions already raised, a fund which will enable British aid agencies to meet the acute needs of many more of the hungry and sick refugees in the camps in Ethiopia and Kenya. On the same theme, this year's Christian Aid collection in the village raised the staggering total of
I am delighted to welcome Ray & Wendy, Denise, Symon, Jules & Kathryn into the full membership of the Christian church following their confirmations last month. It is always a joy to Sylvia and me to see growth in the church in such a way and perhaps especially so when the people concerned are of varying ages. I'm not sure that any of them would agree that they were old, but some of them certainly aren't. I think all of the group have told us what a moving spiritual experience their confirmation was. All of us need those occasional 'mountain top' experiences to enable us to plod on through the inevitable periods when our church life is routine and, occasionally, even difficult. I read this recently and it is worth passing on:
"I walked up the passage to my bedroom, went down on my knees, and asked for an explanation. As I did so, the glory of the universe shone before me – I was blinded by the dazzling white light. In my heart I flung my arms before my eyes, because I knew then that man could not look upon God and live. I was both terrified and uplifted – I can't explain it. I was shattered and then knew that I was nothing. All my conceit and personal esteem vanished. When I hear men say: “You can't prove there is a God!” I reply: “You wait until he has taken half a step towards you and you are left in no doubt.”
[a letter to Gerald Priestland, a former BBC religious affairs correspondent]
One of the saints the church recalled this month (on July 22nd) is Mary Magdalene. She is commonly supposed to be the woman of easy virtue (as one might say) who wiped Jesus feet with ointment and washed them with her tears. Because she desired