St Nicholas of Myra, our patron saint, is perhaps most remembered for his generosity. At a very young age he inherited a sizeable fortune. He is often depicted carrying three bags of gold to represent the help he gave to three young women who were at risk. Our tradition of giving gifts at Christmas has its origins in an earlier practice of giving children gifts on St Nicholas’ Day, the 6th of December.
Happy New Year!
The beginning of a new church year always pre-empts the world around us – perhaps one of the few ways in which the church is ahead of the times! As I wrote here last week, this is important, not least because it positions Advent and Christmas not at the end of an old year but at the beginning of a new one. Let me explain a little further.
Remembrance Sunday is, for me, a paradox. Today we are reminded of the very best and the very worst of our human nature: the horrors of war and our human instinct for violence; and also our capacity for breathtaking acts of courage and self-sacrifice.
Every year I’m struck by how many people attend our Service of Remembrance and Thanksgiving. Along with our Christingle Service and Crib Service it is one of the three acts of worship that are most popular with those who don’t regularly come to church. I wonder why that is? I have a few ideas, but I’d be interested to hear what you think.
This time last year we were forced to close the church for a second time. For me, that was the moment that confirmed what I had already begun to fear – Covid was going to be around for a long time to come. And here we are, a year later, wondering if this autumn might see another period of sterner restrictions on our economic, social and spiritual freedoms.
Last week I announced that I have been appointed to the role of Warden of the College of St Hugh. This weekend I want to use the opportunity of this column to explain a little more of what that means and what I am going to be doing.
Human life is often compared to a journey. Various large and small decisions are seen as taking a particular path or travelling down a different road. Many have found it helpful to speak of the Christian life in these terms too, as, for example, in the popular hymn ‘One more step along the world I go’.
There is a story (I’m not sure whether it’s true or not) about the former Archbishop Michael Ramsey. He was, so the story goes, heckled by someone asking him if he could explain the Christian doctrine of creation. Ramsey was not known for his pithy soundbites but he did his best. ‘It means,’ he said, ‘that my being is entirely contingent.’