To all the Saints in Caversham and Mapledurham who are faithful in Christ Jesus: grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.
Thus the apostle Paul may have started a letter to us in the first century … almost. Actually he would have started it with “From Paul, an apostle of Christ Jesus, by the will of God, to all the Saints …”. But you get my drift.
If we’re not careful we forget to remember just who the saints of our faith are. We look up into the stained glass windows of our churches and cathedrals often to met by the gaze of the celebrated saints memorialized by history. Whilst the “super-hero” saints of yesterday are not to be forgotten nor demeaned, for they offer us an insight into how faith can be lived often in the face of adversity and challenge, we must be wary of assuming that it is these and only these who are considered worthy enough to be given the title ‘saint’.
Paul reminds us of a deeper definition and a broader understanding: it is not just them, but us. We who claim the name of Christ for ourselves, we who seek to follow the Carpenter from Nazareth, we who call ourselves Christian are saints in our day just as much as those who made up the church in Ephesus, in Corinth and in Philippi in Paul’s day.
So let us celebrate the whole household of saints from across the world and throughout the ages. Let us be thankful for St Paul, St Margaret, St Peter and St John the Baptist; but let us be equally thankful for the secret saints we sit next to in church. Let us draw inspiration from St George, St Andrew, St Patrick and St David; as well as from the secret saints we talk to over coffee. Let us drink deeply from the spiritual insights of St Theresa, St Cecelia, St Francis and St Brigid whilst giving thanks for all those secret saints who have formed us and enabled us to be who we are becoming: shaped by the hands of those around us, molded by hands of those who loves us.
Over the last few years, the commemoration of All Souls Day has become increasingly popular, both within the church at large and, interestingly, more broadly in society. I value this development enormously.
Not only because it offers us another opportunity to engage with those who own a flickering faith, those on the edge of church life, and to say once again that despite the pains and seeming injustices of this life, God is with us in the midst of it all and that “the light shines in the darkness and the darkness will not overcome it.”
But also because it reminds us of the eternal truth that we are all equally valued, equally worthy, equally loved by God who calls us into being by His love and for His love’s sake. And if we hold fast this truth then no individual, however heroic a deed they may perform, can be seen as anything other than a sister or brother to us all.
At this time of year we mark our celebrated saints on All Saints Day (Thurs 1 November) and our secret saints on All Souls Day (Sun 4 November) with services in the parish to which you, and those whom you invite, are most welcome.
With my very best wishes
You’re never too old for faith !
When my grandson was quite small (he’s a hulking 16 year old now) he looked at me very intently and asked ‘’How old are you Grandma?’’ Being rather taken aback by his question and playing for time, I said ‘’ Well I’m not quite sure Tal!’’ ‘’Oh don’t worry if you can’t remember’’ he said, “just look in the back of your vest, mine says I’m 5-6 years!”
We all play for time when we’re put on a spot, it’s part of our nature and we panic! As we get older it gets easier to panic and say no because we have more excuses to come up with! Do you notice though that we only admit to being older when it’s something we don’t want to do. At other times we try to deny or disguise the fact that we’re getting older, we use antiwrinkle cream, and get tummy tucks and face lifts – use oil of delay – all in an effort to disguise that we’re getting older. But find it useful when asked to do something we don’t want to do!
And certain slogans become popular with us: “You’re only as old as you feel.” “Life begins at 40.” “NO those really aren’t wrinkles, they’re expression lines.” We have a lot of them, don’t we. Excuses I mean?
The second mistake we make is in thinking that when we get older we’ll be relieved of all responsibility – a lady told me a few weeks ago that she doesn’t come to church anymore because she feels she’s ‘’done her bit!’’! When we’re younger, maybe bringing up children, with all the stresses of life, we look forward to holidays. We take off with the family and go wherever we want. We don’t have to get up at any certain time. We can stay up as late as we want, and do anything we choose. It is often during times like that we begin to fantasize about retirement and being able to live like that for the rest of our life. But I think it would get boring after a while, don’t you?. After he retired, one man wrote, “I get up in the morning and I dust off my wits. I go out and get the paper and I read the obituaries. If my name is missing, I know I’m not dead. So I eat a good breakfast, and go back to bed.”
This doesn’t fit with that wonderful verse from Thessalonians. Paul says “But one thing I do: forgetting what is behind and straining toward what is ahead, I press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus.”
Nothing in the Bible ever suggests that we are to retire in our service to God. In fact, it seems that as people got older in the Bible they became more useful to God. God used them in the twilight of life in ways that He wasn’t able to use them when they were younger.
When we retire from a secular occupation that just sets us free to be of more service to God.
When I dedicated my life to Christ I didn’t dedicate just 40 or 50 years, I dedicated all my life to Him. I want to be used as long as God gives me the strength and has something for me to do.
We need to establish goals all the way through life: to grow in our giving, to grow in our knowledge of the Bible, to grow in our prayer life, to grow in kindness and love. Even though we are older we want to continue growing and our reward is citizenship is in heaven. God will transform our lowly bodies so that they will be like His glorious body. We’re going to get new bodies someday. No more wrinkles. Nor more aches, no more pains, no wonky knees, no surgery required. Everything will be new!
When Jesus asked men and women to ‘’follow him’’ these were the rewards he had in mind for them—but so often they chose instant earthly pleasure – instant gratification!
It is hard to keep our faith fresh and new and growing- especially as we get older; so easy to say “I’ve done my bit.” But if we keep our eye on the main prize it makes it so much easier!
Why are you here?
Why are you reading this? Why is it that you come to Church?
Chances are, there was a significant person in your childhood and adolescence who helped you see the importance of holding together life and faith. Such relationships, when one’s own biology and social position are changing, make all the difference.
My first job after University was as a Community Youth Worker for a Church in Middlesbrough. Here, we set up a system of ‘safe people, safe places’ so that the young people with whom we were working could have clubs, cafes and people that would offer them the support the young people felt they needed. On the whole, it worked very well, and as relationships were deepened and trust built, the ‘safe people, safe places’ campaign became a very important offering.
Here in this parish, we also have a small youth group. Each Sunday (sometimes mornings, sometimes evenings) the Parish Rooms become a safe place in which young people can explore all sorts of issues with one another. This is also a place where our own young people can explore faith in a place where it doesn’t have to be defended; faith (in its different forms) is normal to the group. This, in and of itself, is profoundly helpful when schools are being increasingly secularised.
Such groups are vital for transmission of the faith from generation to generation; without them, and those adults who help lead them, the church will be in serious jeopardy.
So here’s an offer to you: could you be one of those people that inspires a young person to live a life of faith?
Superheroes, Spiritual Gurus and Know-it-alls need not apply. However, those who are aware of their successes and failures, honest about their hopes and doubts, and have a sense of humour and curiosity will be just the ticket. If you’re not sure, why not come along to a session and see what you think of it? Not only will you see what a fantastic bunch of young people we have, but you’ll be able to share in our weekly pastries and conversations.
Contact me for more details: email@example.com
Well, since I last wrote, the Olympics and Paralympics have finally happened and in the words of some we are now in a period of post-Olympic blues. The heady days and nights of summer at the Olympic stadium are over, the buzz has gone and it’s back to business as usual, with people not talking to one another on the tube. But has all the energy and vitality which surrounded the Games simply gone out of the window, never to come back, or is there a legacy of optimism and good faith which remains?
Working as a chaplain in Weymouth, I was struck by the stories of some of those Games Makers who had given up their summer holidays and made considerable financial sacrifices in order to volunteer. Their efforts were, rightly I think, applauded by David Cameron, Boris Johnson and others. Apparently, for some this was their first experience of volunteering and I gather that many are keen to do it again. All of which made me think about the army of volunteers in the UK who run our parish churches (including) week in, week out giving freely of their time and money to support the mission and ministry. We too have got something of that volunteering spirit in our midst at St.Peter’s, St.Margaret’s and St.John’,s and are doing some tremendous work in the process.
But maybe, at times, it can feel like we have got the post-Olympic blues here in church? We’ve been doing something for x period of time and have run out of steam to do it any longer.
Perhaps now is the time to consider a change of role, to become fired up once again in our service of God and others by doing something different? Perhaps this is where the experience of London 2012 can help us – get small groups of people working together on a specific task for a short period of time in order to achieve a specified goal. So do take the opportunity this autumn to review your ‘voluntary’ contribution to the life of the churches and if need be speak to the clergy or a lay member of your church leadership team about how best your skills and experiences may be put to work for the sake of growing God’s kingdom here in Caversham and Mapledurham.
Have a fruitful autumn!
Some News about Some Trees
Around the time of the Olympic Torch being in Caversham Court the lime trees on church land had a bit of “short back and sides” to spruce them up for the occasion. As part of this operation the diocese asked a local arboriculture firm to give the trees a thorough inspection. I am sure you will have noticed that, as a result of that inspection, a lime tree at the top of the Rectory drive was felled very quickly. It was found to have “an advanced fruitification of Kretzschmaria deusta” and a “wide area of decaying cambium with secondary insect infestation”. Personally I don’t understand that language at all (hence the “xx”) but the outcome was dramatic … in just three hours the tree was down and removed because it presented a very threat to “the Rectory dwelling, car park, footpath and public access to Caversham Court”.
However sad this particular loss is, I am sorry to say that this is not the end of the story. Given the state of that tree, the diocese then commissioned a full inspection of all the trees within the grounds of the rectory. You may well know that at the bottom of the garden is a line of mature Horse Chestnut trees. Unfortunately we have recently learnt that the tree nearest to Caversham Court is also diseased: “Two further pathogens have been identified Kretzschmaria deusta & Rigidoporus ulmarius both acting as accelerants to decay, leading to structural compromise.” The upshot of this news is that, when the leaves have fallen, this tree will also be felled.
Rest assured that all these decisions are being taken in the full knowledge of and with the consent of Sarah Hanson, Natural Environment Officer for Reading Borough Council. She will continue to work closely with the diocese and the tree experts to ensure that the two trees are replaced with something suitable to the environment: “a number of different species being considered, including Fastigiate Oak, Field Maple, Metasquoia glyptostroboides and Alder”.
If you have any questions (except about the bits in “xx” !!) please do ask … if I can’t answer your queries I can put you in touch with someone who can.