I thought I would use this space to share with you some of the things I have had the privilege to share in over the last few months and some of the events we are planning for the coming year.
Firstly, I want to say that our Christmas services seemed to go very well and I was especially pleased with the festival of angels which was a wonderful celebration, launched with a fabulous nativity play by the children of Tirlebrook. We had so many visitors during the period and so a lot of opportunities to share stories and conversation. As I have travelled around the section since there have been many positive comments about the creativity, the hospitality and the warmth of welcome received during our festival and related services such as the town carol service and Messy Advent.
I can tell you that we are all set for another great festival during advent 2018 with the knitted christmas carols exhibition, which will once again provide opportunities for the local community to be involved …but more of that later on in the year.
On the 3rd January we launched a new group which is meeting every 1st and 3rd Wednesday at 3.00. This group is about intentional faith development and is based on exploring our inner relationship with God. The name of the group is Desert Soul as it is derives from the approaches to prayer and scripture based on the desert fathers and mothers who developed the earliest christian monastic movement in the deserts of Egypt and Syria in the 4th Century. We had originally planned to meet in the guild room but I rather underestimated the number of attendees and in the end we had to move into the church to accommodate everyone. All are welcome to come along…think of it as a mini retreat where your soul can find peace amongst the business of our daily lives. Later in the year there will be a Desert Soul away day…a full day retreat to which all are invited (whether you attend the fortnightly sessions or not). I am currently exploring venues for this and would be grateful for any suggestions, though Prinknash Abbey is looking like a distinct possibility,
In February we hosted and led the opening session for the week of prayer for Christian unity. The theme this year focused on the contemporary issues addressed by the churches of the Caribbean. Abuses of human rights such as human trafficking and modern day slavery formed topics for conversation, reflection and prayer and action. The week concluded with a service at Holy Trinity in which we heard of the huge amount of work that our churches in Tewkesbury are engaged in together especially working in schools. Open the book is one such activity and one of the great success stories of how children are once again beginning to engage with the bible. Many involved with Open the Book report not only on how very well received it is but also on how the children now know the stories and can anticipate what is coming.
Going back to the subject of prayer and unity for a moment, please remember that the Women’s World Day of Prayer is on 2nd March at Holy Trinity..Do go along if you are able to.
Looking forward we have a number of things we are planning for including opening as usual for the medieval festival and the mop fair, these are always great opportunities to engage with our community. In particular though the weekend of 24th June is an important one for us as we celebrate our 140th Anniversary, this is still in the planning stages but do keep the Sunday as there will be a day of celebrations.
This all looks like such busy schedule and indeed it is but in all our doing it is important for us to pause to consider the God who calls us to be a worshipping community and who equips us to share his unconditional love with all. In Corinthians 13:1-13 Paul reminds us that in our doing, if we do not have love then we are merely clanging cymbals. But what does it really mean for us to extend such love in the context of our busy and let’s face it, very enjoyable schedule…Well, in her commentary, Shively Smith puts this very well and I hope the following paragraph from that commentary will cause us all to stop and reflect on what should be the central focus of all our ‘doing’.
‘Make no mistake. The love Paul is talking about here is not passive and fluffy. This kind of love is an up at dawn, feet on the ground, tools in hand, working kind of love. It builds communities. It nurtures positive social interactions, and not just social networks (which many of us have come to prefer). Paul’s declaration of love unifies. Love is the way by which we talk to each other (1 Corinthians 1:5; 16:20), eat with one another (1 Corinthians 8:13; 10:27; 11:33-34), fellowship together (1 Corinthians 11:20), and affirm all (1 Corinthians 16:15-16, 18). Love transcends our self-imposed caste systems and personal biases. It forms whole and holistic people, who are anchored in the well-being of others. Love will not let us down if we genuinely live in it together (1 Corinthians 16:14).’
So as a new year unfolds with so many opportunities ahead of us, may we embrace this radical love that it’s transforming power might bring a shared vision for life, unity and wholeness in our church and with the community we are called to serve.
(The full commentary on 1 Corinthians 13:1-13 can be found here https://www.workingpreacher.org/preaching.aspx?commentary_id=2595)