Not From The Vicarage

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NOT FROM THE VICARAGE

 

Out with the old, in with the new!     -     JANUARY 2021

I am writing this on 17th December to meet the Editor’s deadline of 20th of the month. It is a difficult time of the year to be writing for the January 2021 edition of ‘Parish News.’ We have been told recently that we will be moving into tier 3, the highest tier of Covid restrictions. We don’t know what effect this move will have on us after Christmas and into 2021.

None of us know what effect the vaccine will have on our lives next year. Will we be able to return to ‘normal’ or will what we now know as normal, be our ‘new normal’ for the foreseeable future?

We don’t know the outcome of ‘Brexit’. Will there be a trade deal between us and the EU? Will there be a shortage of food? Will the price of food rise? Will there be lorries lined up on the motorways to our various ports?

There is much uncertainty about 2021. But there is hope!

The congregation at All Saints’ was informed last Sunday that a Priest-incharge has been appointed to our Parish and that he will be licenced on 6 January 2021. His name is Rev. Asa Humphreys and he is currently Priest-in -charge at St Andrew’s, Heybridge, St George’s, Heybridge Basin and St Giles’ Langford and will be taking on the additional responsibility for All Saints. Due to the current restrictions, we won’t have the opportunity to meet Rev’d Humphreys and his family, so I asked him a few questions.

Tell me a little about you and your family.

“My wife Laura and I have just celebrated our 13th wedding anniversary and our two children, Simone and Abel, are 8 and 6 respectively. We have a retired Guide Dog, Maddie, who we look after too – she is 14 this year and enjoying her rest after a long working life. We enjoy the outdoor life and exploring new places, by bicycle or on the water. We have previously served in Bournemouth, Nottingham and Salisbury and are looking forward to sharing fellowship in another new place. Laura works variously as an English teacher, a sailing instructor and a property manager as well as heading up St Lucy’s, Fresh Expression. Between us we have five Godchildren.”

How would you like to be addressed?

“People have called me all sorts of things in recent years! Asa is fine, but whatever makes people feel at ease – I am always happy to listen, however people prefer to address me.”

How long have you been Priest-in-Charge in Heybridge and Langford?

“I was installed as Incumbent of the United Benefice of Heybridge with Langford in September 2018. We have seen a lot of answered prayers these past few years and some growth too, which is lovely. Each church and place has their own character, but they are drawn together by a shared desire to worship God and love their neighbour. Whenever I have served in All Saints’, I have been struck by that same desire. In early 2019 we started St Lucy’s, a multi-sensory church that has been reaching out particularly to people with additional needs and that has been a joy to see too.

”Are you going to move into All Saints’ Vicarage?

“We are very blessed with our current vicarage in Heybridge, what with it being so close to the children’s school and their friends, as well as the good neighbours we have grown to support throughout this year of restrictions. The All Saints’ Vicarage is a beautiful building (and the option of having a Gregg’s 90 seconds away was very appealing) but we’ll be staying on Scraley Road after my installation.”

You will be taking on another parish. Will you have anyone full time to help you?

“I’ll be the only stipendiary Priest serving the three parishes, 5 churches and have ‘cure of souls’ for the approximately 20,000 people within those boundaries, which is a very different arrangement to those experienced by previous generations. However, I’ll be ably supported by a good number of people willing to share their time and energy in small and significant ways, and there will be a few people whom God will continue to call to serve in roles with weightier responsibility. I hold a long-standing view that I don’t ask people to undertake more than they feel they can flourish in, and if that means doing less, that is fine. Ultimately, the Holy Spirit acts and we join in – it is His help that is the critical factor. We’ll need fresh eyes to see where He is at work and a renewed courage to join in.”

Will our pattern of Services change?

“Alan, the honest answer is yes. I could choose to write a paragraph that avoids saying that, whilst reassuring no-one, but that is just unfair – false hope, is no hope at all. I appreciate that change can stir-up fear, but scripture reminds us that ‘perfect love drives out all fear.’ The conversation around this will begin in the weeks after my installation and is of course tied up with the restrictions we currently worship under, but one stipendiary Priest and five churches will mean some degree of change.”

Is there anything else you would like us to know?

“I like to walk and cycle in between appointments and services so that I can chat to parishioners around and about, whilst also reducing the environmental impact (and costs) of ministry. I enjoy reading (Georges Simenon is a particular favourite) and listening to sport on the radio. Apparently, I make a good pastry – because my hands are the right temperature – and I enjoying running for exercise. I occasionally do some teaching in this and other Diocese’s and will invariably ask people I meet what I can be praying for them. Be sure to have something up your sleeve for when we chat next and don’t be afraid to tell me what impact it has made when we meet subsequently!”

I am sure you will join me in welcoming Rev’d. Humphreys to our Parish. We assure him of our prayers and support in this new chapter of our church history.

 

Out with the old 

Although we will all be another year older, I’m sure most of us will be happy to see the end of 2020 with its coronavirus, overcrowded hospitals, queues outside supermarkets, lockdowns. We must be grateful though, for dedicated NHS and care home staff, teachers, good neighbours, and the thousands of workers who kept essential services running.

In with the new

A New Year with all the uncertainty, but with a new beginning – a new chapter, new resolutions and a new challenge for us all to work together with other Christians to further the kingdom of God in this corner of Essex, and a new Bishop – the Right Reverend Dr Guli Francis-Dehqani - to lead us in all of this! Whilst reading one of my books recently, I found the following. It was written by Roddy Hamilton. ‘

Waiting for the old year to end

and the New Year to begin,

waiting to say farewell and welcome:

farewell to all that we can leave behind,

welcome to all that we can travel toward.

Life in abundance is God’s promise

that waits to meet us as we journey on

with a spring in our step and hope in our hearts.

Travelling with God is never dull,

but always filled with surprises.

So we mourn not the past

nor dread the future,

but open ourselves

to the possibilities

of compassion,

of kindness,

of humility,

of gentleness,

of patience,

opening ourselves

to the possibility

of God bringing life

in all its fullness.

Hand in hand with God

we step into a brave new future.’

 

Happy New Year!

Alan Marjoram

 

Since Alan wrote this, we now know that we have moved into the higher tier, Tier Four. This means that the church is once again closed for services and therefore the Licensing and installation of Asa, on the 6thh January, will be a much more low key event.

 

 

 

 

 

DECEMBER 2020

“So – what are your plans for Christmas?” How many times over the years have we asked and been asked that question. In most households, Christmas plans are a complex affair of planning meals and gifts, working out who visits whom on Christmas Day, whose turn it is to host the Boxing Day bash, who has uncle Norris to stay until Easter at least, and what are you doing for New Year? For those of us with smaller or scattered families, plans may be easier, but generally, whatever the household, plans are afoot. So what about this year - we don’t even know what we will be planning for yet. And even if we know by the beginning of Advent, who is to say things won’t have changed by Christmas Eve?

We know that dealing with uncertainty saps our energy; each day we are faced with more anxieties and decisions than we are used to – many of them really small, but necessary nonetheless: should I go out to the shop; does this count as a necessary journey; can I meet a friend outside for a walk; what if the supermarket is too crowded and I feel uncomfortable; when will I be able to buy Christmas cards and presents; what will I be doing for Christmas?

We know too of all the bigger issues people are facing this year; the spectre of illness, loneliness, bereavement, loss of livelihood, being separated from friends and family, unable to hold those we love, new lives together put on hold, family celebrations delayed causing not only a lack of celebration but the chaos, sadness and uncertainty of changed plans. I know some people who feel this may be their last Christmas with a loved one – and how do they make it the best Christmas ever? How do we create special memories when we are frightened to be close to those we love for fear of endangering them?

The Church of England has acknowledged that this is a uniquely difficult year to celebrate Christmas and so has put together resources for churches and individuals on the theme of Comfort and Joy. We in All Saints are using that theme for our Advent and Christmas seasons. Comfort and Joy holds in tension the hope for the joy of celebrating Christ’s birth with the recognition of a need for comfort – comfort for those who have lost something in this year – a loved one; physical, mental or spiritual wellbeing; livelihoods; the closeness of those we love and depend on. It recognises that not everyone can be joyful at Christmas – indeed every year, there are people who find Christmas a particularly difficult occasion – we’ve had that long before a pandemic.

The Nativity story itself of course, isn’t to do with tinsel and turkey. It doesn’t have smiling new parents surrounded by family and friends. The first nativity was difficult and messy, poor and lonely, overshadowed by death even as a birth was celebrated. A pregnant teenager – unmarried when the baby was conceived - and a reluctant husband, take a long and hazardous journey to end up somewhere where they know no family or friends. With little money and being too late to stay anywhere better, their baby was born in an animal shed, rented out by a fractious pub landlord. The visitors who came were strangers of no worth or status – working shepherds who no-one else would have entertained at the cradle of their new born baby; and the kings who came later with their gifts foreshadowed sadness and death.

And yet that first seemingly flawed Christmas, led to a Good News story for the poor and oppressed, the weak and the outcast, the poor in spirit and those who mourn. As the life of Jesus played out then, and as we interpret it today, many find hope that belief in God can give; that today’s sorrows can be healed and we can find peace and comfort in the Kingdom of God.

Our challenge for this Advent and Christmas, more than ever, is to bring that Kingdom a bit closer for those who are struggling to see it or feel it - to help give others hope, to help bring comfort and joy into the lives of others, to be the salt and light in the world. And if we look through the difficulty and despair, we can be encouraged by the acts of kindness and generosity in everyday life which bring hope to those who are struggling -from the staggering sacrifice of health and care workers, and those working in essential services, to businesses whose own livelihoods are in jeopardy making up food parcels - and everything in between: volunteers packing emergency food and toiletries parcels for those in need; local foodbanks whose appeals are generously met; people who have increased their donations to charities; those who make more effort to keep in touch by telephone, email, letter; neighbour shopping for neighbour; people checking in on the vulnerable; smiles from a distance (and behind masks – you can still tell); there’s even a man ironing crisp packets together to turn them into insulated sleeping bag liners for the homeless. And when eating crisps helps to save someone on the street, then surely that is worth celebrating.

Wishing you all a season of comfort and joy,

Adrienne Knight

 

 

 

 

 

The Loss of the Sacramental      -       NOVEMBER 2020

As in other walks of life, clergy of the older generation notice that their younger colleagues have been educated differently about what ‘church’ means. Naturally the changing face of church over decades plays its part. But always for the better? The ‘old boys’ – and to a more recent extent ‘old girls’ – in ordained ministry will eventually find themselves out of step with their former selves, or indeed their ministerial formation. Outwardly this may not seem to matter; but it has implications for both preaching and teaching in the parish. When I was ordained in 1984 I was part of a church which was certainly conscious of evangelism (the ‘Decade of Evangelism’ for instance ran from 1990-2000) but pastoral and sacramental ministry were still seen as central to parish life. The words of the Ordinal seemed unequivocal: a priest “must set the Good Shepherd always before him as the pattern of his calling, caring for the people committed to his charge, and joining with them in a common witness to the world’.

Contrast this with the experience of one of our clergy today who heard a diocesan adviser say just a few years back: “the age of pastoral care is dead”. The adoption of Mission as the church’s sole focus affects a whole new generation’s understanding. Of course Jesus made the preaching of the Good News his priority: but without his healings and compassionate care for sinners the Kingdom would have been stripped of its meaning.

This major shift worries a ‘retired’ like me for a number of reasons. The evangelical wing of the Church of England is now in the ascendant and has been for the last 20 years. The problem with that (the majority of our 72 bishops now represent only one wing of the church) is that an increasingly lop-sided understanding of parish life has emerged. The evangelical emphasis on the Scriptures is to be universally welcomed. But the fact that the sacramental part of Christian life is declining in significance is not.

At the Eucharist we encounter Our Lord in word and sacrament. Receiving the host (and pre-Covid the wine) is the culminating point in our Parish Eucharist (Holy Communion). A diminishing number of clergy from the ‘catholic tradition’ (small ‘c’) retain a deep understanding of the centrality of the sacrament; that the Holy Spirit transforms God’s people in the Eucharist as they come to the altar. There is a mystery about our incorporation into the Body of Christ which goes deeper than charismatic preaching, fervent prayers or worship songs. The ‘dumbing down’ of sacramental awareness is sad, even heart-breaking. It also sells God’s people November 2020 Page 4 short. Evangelical worship often presents a chummy, over-familiar relationship with the Father. Where is the opportunity for humility, reverence and awe? Evangelical worship is sometimes triumphalist and noisy: where can one find the ‘still small voice’ of meditation and silence?

There are valuable insights to be gained from evangelical spirituality: personal conversion, extempore prayer, commitment to the Bible. But strangely enough even these may lead us only into the shallows of faith. If we also want to plumb the depths of the Divine, the sacramental life can reveal to us the ‘mystery beyond all telling, deep in the heart of God’.

Canon Graham

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 


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Page last updated: 31st December 2020 8:25 PM