A major international football tournament is just what we needed to get that feeling of a normal English summer back, don’t you think?
Last week the church celebrated two hymn writers in its calendar. On Tuesday, it was the 17th Century English Bishop, Thomas Ken. This week’s e-Church video features one of Ken’s hymns, ‘Awake, my soul, and with the sun’ for this reason. On Wednesday it was the 4th Century deacon St Ephrem the Syrian. Ephrem’s best known hymn in England is ‘Strengthen for service, Lord, the hands’, which by popular acclaim will now be making a comeback at St Nicholas.
As I said at the Eucharist on Wednesday, music is important in the life of faith. Hymns are important. Music writes the words of our faith on our hearts in a way that nothing else can accomplish. Many of us may remember the words of hymns we learned as children and find them surfacing in our prayers to this day.
I begin this week with thanks to our curate, Mthr Alice Jolley, for preaching and presiding at both of our morning services this week while I am at St George’s, Swallowbeck, and to Fr Alan Moses, who will be preaching and presiding at our service on Wednesday while I am on leave.
This is the first time in my ordained life that an Annual Meeting has taken place on the Feast of Pentecost. The main reason for this novelty is that the rules of the Church of England have changed. Previously the Annual Meetings needed to happen before the end of April. That was always a rather difficult thing to accomplish in view of the fact that Easter more often than not falls within the month of April. It is a mercy, then, that the legislation now gives us an extra month.
One of the many things that Christians have argued about during the pandemic is whether consecrated buildings are necessary to the practice of their faith. For some, the experience of online worship has demonstrated that we can encounter God in our living rooms while still wearing our pyjamas. I understand the sense of liberation that comes from that! Others have, by contrast, been devastated by not being able to gather in church, finding that the separation from a community of fellow worshippers in a space ‘where prayer has been valid’ (as T.S. Eliot) put it, makes everything much more difficult.
I wonder if you’ve ever had the experience of something very close to you suddenly featuring on the national news? For most of us, most of the time, the news is about other people in other places. And that’s a blessing, I think, when you consider that the news tends to focus on disaster, scandal and controversy.
When I began work in the Lord Chancellor’s Department (as it was then) many years ago, a senior colleague told me I had bagged a good posting as my first job. In outlining its many blessings, he added a phrase that struck me as much less than encouraging; ‘unreasonable expectations’.
Top of the list of notices in this week’s sheet is one drawing your attention to the forthcoming Annual Meetings. These meetings are a legal requirement for all Church of England parishes and they take place for two main reasons: to elect the officers of the parish and to receive the annual report.
The Easter season continues to invite us and to challenge us to reflect on what the resurrection of Jesus means for us. In some senses, this is the central question of our Christian faith. The belief that Jesus rose again stands at the heart of our Creeds; as Saint Paul says, if Christ is not risen our faith is in vain. But Saint James reminds us that faith, real faith, marries thought and word and deed. Faith involves the whole person and impacts the whole of life.