The Vicar Writes
So we come to the last letter I will be writing for our Sunburst magazine! I have been your Vicar for six years and now it is time for me to retire. We will be moving to Hampshire to be closer to our daughter.
Geoff and I have greatly enjoyed our time with you and as with all of life there have been many highlights and some not so high but all related to people!
All through my time here I have tried to emphasise the need for prayer and healing. Prayer is so important. It is our life-line to God – listening, thinking, asking and just waiting in His presence. Some might doubt the possibilities of healing (it wouldn’t happen to me!) but this does take place – not always in the way we would choose however. We need to be open to all that the Holy Spirit desires to give us, freely and with love. (If any of the congregation feel that this might be a ministry for them please speak to myself or Ann.)
When we want to celebrate a family or friend’s special occasion we hold a party, we dress up, we eat and drink and have a great time. It is the same with Christmas and Easter. Every Sunday is a little Easter which is why in days gone by folk used to put on their ‘Sunday best’ to attend church. Now, the dress code is much more relaxed but the sentiment is the same: a celebration of all that God has done for us in Jesus Christ. Our Sunday services should send people out with smiles on their faces, strengthened for the week ahead to live out their lives where God has placed them.
One of the things I was asked when I came here was to suggest more social gatherings for the church and that is what I have done. The Patronal Festival service and barbecue in the Vicarage garden is now a fixture, after a gap of some years; our parish dinner at the Upchurch Golf Club has also become a favourite (thanks to Pam for organising it each year) – a chance to dress up a bit and enjoy the company of others with good food and wine…and no fund raising! Another purely social occasion has been ‘Ladies who Lunch’ which regularly has about 23 ladies enjoying time together in a variety of venues. We are very fortunate, nay blessed, to have many volunteers in our church family but they could not all fit in the vicarage at one time! So we decided to throw an annual Christmas party for those who have committed their time to be on our Parochial Church Council, together with our very able Vergers and organists. (All volunteers are feted each year in the Millennium Centre organised by our Church Wardens).
Jesus was criticized for eating and drinking with sinners and tax-collectors. We may not all be tax-collectors but we are all sinners whether we go to church or not! Those of us who try to follow where Jesus leads are perhaps more aware of our short-comings and know our need for forgiveness, on a regular basis.
Another form of celebration which Geoff and I began a few years ago, with much help from others, was the Christmas Tree Festival. That first year I think we had about 26 trees and four years later this had risen to 49! The church is transformed during this time lit only by fairy lights! It gives church folk and those in our community – shops and schools for example – an opportunity to take part, and encourages people who would not normally come into church to do so. Christmas is, after all, a very special time of year, as we welcome the Christ-child into our lives once more.
When I was in my previous parish we would hold a pet service in one of the churches each year. The nearest we have come to this is welcoming ‘Dave’ the donkey into our church on Palm Sunday. At first he was a bit timid of entering, then he came in just to the back, and now he is quite happy to climb the steps and come up to the front to receive his blessing! In fact when his photo appeared on our Facebook page it received more ‘likes’ and ‘shares’ than anything we have put on before or since!
I am not going to fill the whole of the August magazine with my memories – I have to leave some for my final sermon on the 27th – so I shall close this letter now with love and much prayer for all of you.