First of all, many thanks to all those who shared our 45th wedding anniversary with us on Palm Sunday morning. It made a lovely occasion. And thank you too for the flowers and gifts. The rose has gone into the garden this afternoon.
I am writing this well in advance due to holidays. I know Jim thinks I am away far too much already! But current clergy now have six Sundays off a year, more than I have ever had. Soft, the younger generation! Anyway, this will account for the fact that anything that has happened since Easter won't have registered with me.
For Christians, what happens after Easter is the hard slog of being a believer in the world. One version of our Lord's final words to his disciples (in Acts chapter 1) is this: “you will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes on you; and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, and in Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth.” This was no easy task for Peter, James and the rest. Jerusalem was the city which had brought Jesus to the stake; what might it do to them? Samaria was an area usually avoided by Jews, a bit (so they thought) like a racially segregated area of a large city today. And the ends of the earth? Although educated Greeks by then understood the world to be a sphere, it is possible that Jews – following the OT – still accepted the flat earth model; if so, going to the ends of it might involve falling off!
That is taking speculation too far. And anyway, the more important point our Lord made was, 'start where you are', in their case with Jerusalem and Judea. So, he might say to us, 'be my witnesses in Wentworth, in Harley, and in any of the surrounding communities where you live'. That's fine, as a principle. But grand visions require breaking down into bite size chunks. And the Lenten bible study group this year was deliberately designed to come up with some ideas for this. Those included messy church, mentioned below; the church meeting the needs of the community, maybe in Wentworth's case, the youth; contacting new residents; more information for new worshippers about the services, etc. etc.
Even when that stage has been reached, an action plan is still needed. What could feasibly be done, with our resources of time, space and people? Which is most important? It is always better to do one thing well than several things poorly. I hope that the church council and other interested individuals will be thinking through these matters over the summer. And, then, maybe in the autumn we can start doing (a bit more of, we already try) what our Lord says we should.
All being well, a few of us are going along to Thorpe Hesley's new community centre around 4.00pm on Tuesday 8th May to observe what they (and many other churches) call 'Messy Church'. You won't be surprised that this involves children! It's an idea which recognises the fact that the 1950s Sunday – when kids got sent to Sunday School, partly because there was nothing else to do – are as much in the past as short trousers. There are so many competing demands on both children and parents on Sundays. So maybe churches ought to be offering activities for kids on a weekday. We're going to go along to see if there is a formula here which might be applied in Wentworth. Do join us if you'd like.
You might have noticed my reflections on what to call our Holy Communion services last month. When typing up this issue I realised it looked silly to record Harley's as 'Family' and Wentworth's as 'Parish'. Both churches now have a family atmosphere so this seems the right designation. It doesn't agree with the noticeboard at the bottom of Church Drive, but that hardly matters! (Incidentally, when was Harley's board last updated?)
I should have said last month that the new Area Dean proper is the Revd Andy Brewerton, Vicar of Kilnhurst. I'm sure his assistant won't have much to do!
With best wishes,