LETTER FROM THE VICARAGE
On this page we reproduce the monthly letter from our Vicar as it appears in our parish magazine, the Parish News.
Letter from the vicarage
FROM THE VICARAGE - NOVEMBER 2017
I'm not a great fan of the shortening days or the chilly winds that are beginning to whip around the villages, but I do love the beauty of the autumn colours. During October we had a few days away, we were only down on the south coast, but on our return trip it seemed that in those few days the trees and shrubs had suddenly produced a stunning palette of gold, copper and red. Absolutely beautiful. But an all too obvious reminder that winter is on its way!
Although I sometimes moan about the weather – like an awful lot of us do – I still thank God for the changing seasons. I don't think I could live on the equator where there are no seasons and the days hardly shorten or lengthen, without these I think life might just be lacking something. I find there's something quite humbling about seeing the passage of time marked out by the ever changing landscape around us. It reminds me that we live in a beautiful place and have much to thank God for, something we were able to express so abundantly at our Harvest Thanksgiving.
I would like to say a big 'thank you' to everyone who contributed to such a wonderful weekend. The Barn Dance was such fun, and the food was excellent. The church looked beautiful all bedecked in her Harvest finery; you really are a talented bunch! But most of all I want to thank you for your generosity. We were able to contribute a good supply of food and sundry items to Family Support Work to help them support vulnerable families, and we were also able to send a generous donation to the Diocesan Harvest Appeal to help those affected by the severe flooding and landslides in Sierra Leone.
The Diocesan Harvest Appeal focused on Sierra Leone because at the time of its launch that part of Africa was experiencing horrendous flooding and whole communities were devastated by massive landslides. However since then many parts of the world have been devastated by equally tragic events. Parts of Central America and several Caribbean Island communities have been virtually flattened by hurricane after hurricane, and I'm sure we have all seen the impact of these hurricanes as they made landfall in the USA. Unbelievably, as one part of the States is being deluged, further up the west coast they are suffering from drought and out-of-control wildfires. Mexico has been hit by a massive earthquake, and we've also heard the horrors of the mass shooting in Las Vegas. It seems like every time we switch on the news, we hear of more and more heartbreaking situations where people have lost everything. And yet, for all this sense of loss, I have been struck by how many people still thought to give thanks to God for their survival and expressed their confidence in him to get them through the tough times ahead. What an amazing example of living faith.
Perhaps it's not so surprising that when everything we hold dear and put our confidence in suddenly disappears that we turn to God and his steadfastness. It's very easy when life is good and we feel 'in control' to overlook the fragility of life and even our need of God. But we too, here in this country have faced times of great uncertainty and hardship, especially during the two World Wars, which is why, as the seasons mark the passage of time since these devastating events took place, we remember and take heed of the suffering and loss of those times, and also look to their example of turning to God in their time of uncertainty and great need.
'Remember remember the 5th of November' as the children's rhyme goes, and November certainly is the month we remember. Not only do we have the fun of bonfire night, but we also remember and give thanks for our loved ones in our All Souls celebration on the 2nd of November. And then at our Remembrance Service on Sunday 12th November, we remember and give thanks for all those who gave so much on our behalf to our country in the two World Wars and other conflicts.
Life can feel a little uncertain right now what with the 'Brexit' negotiations seemingly to take forever and, according to the media, getting nowhere. But compared to the uncertainties of living in a time of great upheaval such as we see in other places around the world right now, life here is still pretty good. So it is right that we remember and give thanks to God for those who gave 'their today' for 'our tomorrow', and help to pass on this remembrance to the following generations.
I'm sure we've all had one of those silly conversations about what we might do if we won the 'euromillions', what would you do? I think one of the things I would like to do is to get all my family together (which would more or less fill a 52-seater coach once you add in all the nieces and nephews and their families) and go on a trip to France so we could together visit 'Sword Beach' where my Dad landed on D-Day+9, and visit some of the places he and his comrades fought across Europe. And then go as a family to pay our respects to our Grandfather whose WW1 grave is in the small village of Bucquoy, near the French-Belgian border. My dad was one of the 'lucky' ones who survived, but he carried the physical and mental scars for the rest of his life. When we were growing up my parents didn't talk much about the war, it just wasn't the 'done thing', but my eldest brother is trying to piece together Dad's story and see if we can have copies of Dad's medals – after all, he was the one who lost them playing soldiers in the garden in Rose Green! But the chances of fulfilling this daydream is pretty remote… especially as we don't play the 'euromillions'!
The latest winner of the 'euromillions' won some 190 million euros. These 'jackpots' only get to such phenomenal sizes because so many people play the game of chance and see it as a way of securing their future. But I wonder what does that say about society today? Has life's security become reduced to what we have in the bank? Haven't recent events around the world shown us just how easily we can lose such things?
It is no bad thing to plan for the future, and having a healthy bank balance is not an issue for God, after all, we can only support others out of our abundance. But if our focus and hope is solely centred on such things then we are all the poorer for it. As we have seen in recent weeks, when all is stripped away, our true future comes sharply in to focus when we realise that the only steadfast, unchanging anchor in life is God and His abundant loving Grace.
Our hearts and thoughts and prayers, and I pray our willingness to offer aid, should always go out to all those who are affected by tragic and devastating events, both abroad and in our own neighbourhood. But these things alone are not enough. We also need to pray that they come to know Jesus in their lives, and be willing to be the ones to share the love of God with them. Trusting in God will not spare us from tragic and devastating events, being a Christian is not about living in a protective bubble. But as those survivors so wonderfully demonstrated, having a living faith, and knowing the steadfastness of God's loving Grace, allows us to give thanks in the present, whatever the circumstances, and look with confident hope to the future. Now surely that is something worth sharing with others.
November may be a month where we pause and look with remembrance to the past, but I also hope you've found time along the way to stop and enjoy the blessing of God's autumn palette in the present. As for the future, who knows? But as the seasons continue to mark the passage of time in all their radiant beauty, what we do know with certainty is that God will be right there with us.