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
This month there is an important but often ignored religious festival and also the celebration of a key Christian sacrament. Sacraments are ceremonies like baptism where there is, in the phrase familiar at least to me, “an outward and visible sign of an inward and spiritual grace.” Holy Communion is another, and here the sign is the bread and wine and the grace is Christ's nearer presence. This month's event is frequently an annual one only (or less, for that matter) and it is confirmation. The best way of looking at this is that it is a moment where someone who has been baptised as a child, as most of us were, can take a clear decision to commit their lives to Christ. Not by someone else, like a godparent, saying they will, but by themselves meaning it. The sign here is when a bishop lays hands on the candidate's head; and the grace is the gift of God's Holy Spirit who (He is a person, not a thing) will help us to keep the promise we have just made. We celebrate the gift of God's Spirit on Pentecost Sunday as well of course – watch out for the special effects this year!
If there is anyone out there who thinks, “I would like to know more about confirmation,” please give me a ring or have a word. More importantly, recall that confirmation is a sign of something deeper, which is a dawning of faith within a person.
I always like to look forward rather than backward. Maybe I'm just not quite old enough yet to be in permanent reminiscence mode! Seriously, though, there does come a time in life when there is little to look forward to. One way people cope with the approaching end of life is to say “I hope the Lord takes me.” Relatives might or might not take issue with this. But we have all known people, sometimes seriously ill, in other cases simply tired, whose time, one can see, has come. The oldest known person in the world died recently and he had a couple of bits of advice. One was, “Keep working as long as you can,” and the other was “We are all born to die.” Acceptance, then, is one way of dealing with the fact that there is no future.
Denial is another. I don't mean I expect to cheat death. But I do hope and pray that I shall, even at the end, hold on to Christ's promise that there is life beyond this earth. What did he say to the man hanging beside him on a cross? “Today you will see me in paradise.”