November is quite a busy time in the Church calendar.
We have our Commemoration of the Departed service at the beginning of the month, where people are invited to come and light a candle in memory of a loved one who has died. We then have our Remembrance Day services where, again, we remember those who have died, or those who are still active in the service of their country. You are all welcome at those services.
It is so important in many aspects of life to remember. At funeral services we recall the life of the deceased. And in my addresses, I often speak about cherishing the memories of a loved one, but, together, we also ask God to help us to move on. Sometimes people feel a huge sense of guilt at learning to laugh and enjoy life again, when someone close to them has died. The words of the funeral service are written to allow people to grieve, to celebrate the life of the person who has died but also to give people permission to move on, in the knowledge that God is with them. I often find myself reassuring people that it is ok to laugh; that this isn’t disloyal to the friend or relative who had died and that it doesn’t remove the memories or the love for that person; those memories and that love will always be there.
Our church congregations are here due to a long history of traditions being passed on and it is due to faithful Christians of earlier generations that we are still worshipping today. And just as a funeral or memorial service needs to remember a loved one, so our services need to acknowledge that which we have inherited from previous generations. But we also need to give ourselves permission to move on.
When I was ordained, I was commissioned by the Bishop to ‘proclaim the good news of the Gospel afresh for this generation.’ Afresh means finding new ways to engage with people today and, in particular, those who do not know Jesus, because it is a sad fact that we live in an age when church attendance is in decline; serious decline. And as churches we need to do something about this.
In this Benefice we have introduced Messy Church for families, which happens during the week, details of which you will find in this magazine. More recently, I have been working on making our Sunday services more inclusive and accessible. And, after discussion with PCCs, I am hoping to introduce some of these newer services in the New Year.
Moving on, in many different contexts, can be scary, particularly if we have loved, and lived with, someone or something for many years, but the one thing we can be assured of in the context of change of any kind is that we have a God who is unchanging. Whatever happens around us, whether it be in our personal lives or in our church life, God remains there for us, steadfast and reliable.
Faithful one, so unchanging,
ageless one, you’re my rock of peace.
Lord of all I depend on you.
I call out to you, again and again,
I call out to you, again and again.
You are my rock in times of trouble,
you lift me up when I fall down.
All through the storm, your love is the anchor,
my hope is in you alone.
With love and prayers,