During my time off earlier this month, Rachel and I had a short break in the New Forest. I’ve been visiting the New Forest since I was a small boy and it is a place I love to return to. The woods, the heathland, the streams, the ponies, the sea – and the tea shops! We had a lovely few days walking, including a dramatic final leg into Lyndhurst on the last day when the sole of Rachel’s left boot completely broke off (they have seen many years of faithful service).
Although the leaves had not begun to turn, the berries, fruits and seeds were ripening and the acorns were beginning to fall. It is still definitely summer, but autumn is round the corner. With the falling acorns comes the rounding up of the semi wild cattle by the New Forest Commoners and soon after the deer begin the annual rut. Just as we see in the fields around Kings Langley, nature depends on and flourishes with the changing of the seasons. The cycle of change is what brings growth, and fruit and life – the decay of autumn and the stillness and rest of winter prepare the ground for the shoots of spring and the ripening of summer. Nature flourishes through change.
We are all living in a time of great change. A time that we often hear is ‘unprecedented’. And many of us feel that it is unprecedented. It is true that none of us has lived through anything like the lockdown we experienced from March to July/August. It is true that we have never experienced this coronavirus before or lived through a response to a global pandemic like this one. And for all the invocations of the ‘blitz/Dunkirque spirit’ from some in the media and the government, it is not fair or realistic to compare this experience to the experience of those who lived through the Second World War.
But (you knew there was a ‘but’ coming!), it isn’t completely true to say that this is an ‘unprecedented’ time. The details may be different, but this is a time of change and we have experienced many times of change in our lives as individuals, community, nation and world – and as a church. And we have grown through those times of change, they have brought opportunities as well as challenges, new ideas as well as difficulties. At All Saints we have made several changes in the last few months – with online services, a new weekly newsletter, a pastoral ‘phone network and a new open table foodbank. As the situation continues to unfold, we can keep asking how else we can adapt, what new ideas we can try, to encourage one another and to grow as a church, in numbers, in commitment to God and in service of our local community.
The churchwardens and I would love to hear from you if you have ideas to share for socials, nurture, fundraising or worship. We have really valued your feedback during the last few months. And we have valued all your support, especially in recent weeks whilst we have held two Sunday services. Please note that from September 6th we will have one service only at 9.30am with a capacity of 40 and please do continue to send us your test and trace details each week to help us record that information and to gauge numbers. Email firstname.lastname@example.org or ‘phone the churchwardens.
Having said that we appreciate feedback, I would like to take the opportunity to ask for some here. I would like to bring back coffee in the church hall after the 9.30am service, if we can find a way to do this safely, but it would be helpful first to know how many of you would like to stay for coffee if we did so. If you could email me (or ring me if you are not online) to let me know that would be much appreciated.
Change can be tiring and confusing, but it is also the ground for new life and growth. This ‘unprecedented’ time of very much ‘precedented’ change gives us opportunities amidst the challenges. I would like to thank you for all your continued support as we negotiate this season together, and sign off with a prayer adapted from the service of compline:
Be present, O merciful God,
and protect us through these uncertain days,
so that we who are wearied
by the changes and chances of this fleeting world,
may repose upon thy eternal changelessness;
through Jesus Christ our Lord.
With my love and prayers for you,
All Saints Vicarage,
Thursday 27th August 2020
This week at All Saints:
9.30am Family Eucharist (A-L if possible) live-streamed via the website and available afterwards via Facebook and YouTube
11.00am Family Eucharist (M-Z if possible)