Rev Gary's Pastoral Letter March 2020
Listed Under: Vicars Blog
As I’m writing this letter to you, dear reader, it is unseasonably mild and I’m enjoying the sunshine. It makes a change from all that anticyclonic gloom. The seasons are less defined this year, with spring flowers well on their way before time. Will the show be over for Daffodil Sunday - which this year falls on Mothering Sunday at Madresfield Court? I do hope not! Who on earth planted bulbs in the vicarage lawn….
In the church year, we are in the midst of Lent and with Jesus, we turn our face towards the Passion and the Cross to come.
Traditionally, Lent is a penitential time, when we reflect upon our lives, and lay our sin and brokenness, in repentance before God as we remember the ‘wilderness wanderings’ of our Lord, and the ultimate sacrifice made once for all of us on that coming Cross.
A traditional time for fasting or abstinence, Lent is a time that many Christians observe by giving something up. But what should we give up? Chocolate? Alcohol? Social media? The Vicar emailing? Perhaps. Yet somehow, I feel that whilst self-discipline is indeed admirable, the lack of chocolate ( or my late-night emailing) in itself will not in itself further the Kingdom of God in our lives and villages.
I like St Paul’s idea more:
‘ Get rid of all bitterness, rage and anger, brawling and slander, along with every form of malice.’ Ephesians 4:31
Imagine, if we fasted from anger and back biting. The tut tutting that I sometimes hear in the pews . Let’s fast from bitterness and resentment. From thinking and speaking badly about others. Imagine if we fasted from holding grudges. From harping back rather than looking ahead. From hurtful words or actions. Poison pen letter writing. Yes, that happens in any community - church included- but also families are not adverse to a bit of back biting.
Imagine if, instead of these things, we filled each other instead with these further words from Paul to the Ephesians:
Be kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving each other, just as in Christ God forgave you. Ephesians 4:32
The former Bishop of Dudley, now in Norwich, once said to a new Vicar being licensed - if you find a church that claims its good, with no issues, with caring people ( often with professional types in the back pews) , run away. Seek a church that is with the wider community- even if these people don’t come to church yet. Was that Bishop speaking to me or you? Can we use the remaining weeks of Lent to read, reflect and pray through those two short verses of St Paul’s letter to the Ephesians- reducing the sinful influence of the first (v31) and dwelling in the Christ light of the second (v32)?
It’s not too late to try compassion. Do you really know your neighbour at all? The lady over the road recently bereaved? The bloke with the dog that poops on the street that doesn’t pick up the mess. Let’s think of the 49 homes on Winsmore - new families in our community - that will be moved into later this year? Whatever example you think about, think more positively about or you can help rather than dwell on the bitterness or difficulty of the situation.
Rather than sniping, why don’t you befriend and try and change that person or situation for the better. Offer some love - it should be reciprocated.
May our Lenten fasts reflect the love and forgiveness of God in our lives.
Every blessing - Rev Gary
Having reflected on what families want out of church-based worship, a brand new approach to church services for families launches as a pilot this month. Using resources well known to our schools, the new tea time service ( with food) and ISingPop worship songs starts at St James’ in Callow End on the 9th March at 4pm. Join us. You wanted this- your church is delivering. If you want get involved, please contact Rev Gary or Kay and Vicky as our Lay Childrens’ Ministers.
Stop Stop Press
The church is trying to organize another Litter pick - may be the Saturday before Mothering Sunday. Keep a watch on social media, notice boards and word of mouth to see if this happens.