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, though it isn't always realised, as large as Wentworth. This might be as simple as slightly changing what we do Sunday by Sunday. It could involve leafleting the village (if we have something to say!) or thinking about those who no longer come. Or perhaps making still further improvements to the building. So, please, make an effort to come and arrive with ideas. The invitation, by the way, is open to anyone in Harley who regards themselves as a supporter of the church; you don't have to be a regular worshipper.
A week later our bishop is speaking at Darfield on the diocesan strategy for growth. He points out that growth is the natural state of the church. It developed quickly after the resurrection, it spread throughout the known world, and in the nineteenth century missionaries took the faith to new areas, such as Africa, and with great success. In some areas, Africa again is a case in point, growth is still the norm. In Western Europe and in the UK we have become used to decline and feel it is only what can be expected. Bishop Steven is anxious we realise it need not and should not be so. His main prescription is that all local churches should become used to seeking new disciples and then training them in the faith. Bringing people to faith should be as regular a part of the church year as the Christmas Fair. I agree him, this is possible. But it will require a shift in mind set and in the priorities we set for our churches. And, as well, an acceptance that success will not be assured or continuous. Sometimes we may grow, as other times decline; but the general trajectory should be upward, and the shared attitude one of hope and trust that, under God, this will be possible.
I haven't given away his speech! The bishop will have far more to say and will say it with much greater eloquence. Do come, and be enthused about the future of the church in South Yorkshire.
A little bit of housekeeping now. Although we have covered part of the round, we could do with one extra person to deliver church magazines in the centre of Wentworth. Offers, please, to Jim or me.
And, finally, an apology. I seem to have got into the habit of referring to the Wentworth church cleaner as Sharon. She isn't! She is Andrea. I don't suppose that will be the last senior moment, but anyway that particular record is set straight.