These are Tony Berry's recent letters from the Abinger and Coldharbour Parish News.
The references to the 'Rector's Desk' reflect the fact that while Tony is the Vicar of Coldharbour, he is the Rector of Abinger.
As I write the people of New Zealand are still coming to terms with a mass killing in Christchurch; friends of ours are visiting their daughter who lives there and one can only guess at what their feelings are. Our thoughts and prayers are with those who mourn the violent loss of a loved one, and those who survived the traumatic event.
We all face surprising events at some point in our lives, not on this tragic scale perhaps; but certainly things that make us sit up and ask questions about human nature, the fragility of life and maybe even the meaning of our existence. For some no doubt those can be life changing events, but l guess for most of us, the moment passes; and we are none the wiser, despite all the questions that have been raised and the time we have spent pondering on them. Answers are often in short supply, or so it seems.
At the 2018 Beach Mission we held a Sports Quiz Night as in previous years it was very popular, over 60 people crammed into the venue. What is it that makes people come to such an occasion, is it simply the competitive spirit? Indeed our friends, referred to earlier, are often at those quizzes and are fiercely competitive I’ve seen it within our own parish boundaries too!. It is all good fun, but underneath it all is the satisfaction that we can answer stuff, and that is a good feeling.
Yet it is hard when we come up against those things for which we don’t have an answer or maybe just a sort of generic, catch all, vague, sort of response rather than a real answer. It reminds me of the Peanuts Cartoon [for those of you who remember them] where I think Linus was carrying a placard saying “Jesus is the answer!” and Snoopy came along behind with one saying “What is the question?”
People in Jesus’ day often looked at events and tried to read things into them, given the nature of their culture and society they often used to invoke God and that used to leave some feeling rather smug. Even today people with faith can seem rather smug. Jesus challenged that thinking when questioned about specific tragic events of his day and made people reflect upon their own lives and situations, in the same chapter His parables acknowledge how hard finding answers can be, but having found them he explained how they can change the whole of your life, not in a smug way, but in a deeply sustaining way. Personally l think Linus was right, the challenge is finding what Snoopy was looking for. [Hint -Good Friday and Easter may help!]
From the Rector’s Desk.
Do look out for all our services over the Holy Week and Easter period - 14th-21st - we’d love to see you.
It is Annual Parochial Church Meeting time
- Abinger on 29th at 7pm in St James’
- Coldharbour on 28th at 6pm in JV Hall
We have to renew the Church Electoral roll, so if you are part of the Church community do make sure you have filled in a form , further details from the Parish Office.
The Bible presents us with countless stories of dashed hopes, moral failures; lives, blighted by people or circumstances. It is a realistic book reflecting the human condition portrayed in stories collected over the centuries. But it also gives us glimpses of hope as we see the redeeming nature of God at work in those who are prepared to risk putting their trust in him. These glimpses do much in countering the forlorn hopes l may nurse; they remind me of a bigger picture, one that has an eternal perspective. The one that speaks to me most is Jesus parable of two men praying. One had everything going for them but had lost sight of reality and attributed his good fortune to himself; the other recognised his weaknesses and failures and asked for God’s help.
Some of the troubles and dashed hopes we face may be trivial, others may be devastating but both can be brought to God and we can ask his help to face them.
From the Rector’s Desk
We are really looking forward to Bishop Jo, the Bishop of Dorking, joining us on the 3rd of March. She is, to my mind, an inspirational preacher do please take this opportunity to hear her.
Ash Wednesday marks the beginning of Lent on March 6th we have our benefice service at St James’ at 8.00pm It is a said Communion service with the imposition of ashes for those who would like it.
During Lent there will be a service for the benefice of Compline at 8pm on each Wednesday from the 13th onwards at Holmbury. It is a real chance to stop and think and reflect amidst the business of our weekly rush.
If you would like a bit of Bible study, Hilary is leading a series on the 7 signs of John’s Gospel. The next one is on the 19th of March in the Barn at the Plough in Coldharbour at 8pm
Right at the end of the month is Mothering Sunday which will be celebrated at Christ Church and as it is a 5th Sunday all the benefice will be celebrating together.
As usual for Parish New we are one month in when l come to put pen to paper or rather digits to keyboard. Gone are the hopes expressed in New Year’s resolutions, replaced in some cases by a sense of failure and in others a great sense of relief. Gone is the bonhomie of the Christmas season, replaced by the pushing and shoving in post-Christmas Sales. Gone is the friendship expressed in Christmas cards as they drop on the mat replaced by credit card bills and worries about self-assessment tax returns. Real life asserts itself again.
We should not be surprised by this, it happens every year. One response might be to join the “bah humbug” brigade, and in the future ignore the hope expressed in our Christmas festivities. Yet by and large we don’t, come December we will find ourselves caught up with it once again.
That, l believe, is because the eternal message of a God who cares enough to enter our world strikes a chord in every heart, or at least most of us even if it only remains for a few brief weeks.
The disciples found it hard to hang on to some of the wonderful moments they had with Jesus. After one incredible encounter with God on a mountain top three of them returned with Jesus and found the experience completely overshadowed by the desperate need of the son of one unfortunate man.
So too with us. A simple read of the newspapers, will make us aware of all sorts of seemingly unsolvable problems both at home and abroad. Jesus response to the disciples’ confusion about why it was so hard to help the boy was to point them to prayer; in fact the phrase he used was “much prayer”.
Perhaps if we were to ask for God’s help a little more, learn to trust him in spite of what we may feel about prayers that don’t seem to be answered; be prepared to persevere with prayer beyond the first approach well into the future; then maybe, just maybe the transition from Christmas to the new year may not be so much of a contrast. Because our hopes and expectations, our sense of understanding of our fellow humans, and our sense of responsibilities have been formed over the months by a relationship with God forged by regular prayer and thanksgiving; based on the truth that God has come amongst us in the person of Jesus Christ and revealed his love grace and mercy in doing so. Worth a try l think.
From the Rectors desk
Thanks so much to everyone who worked so hard to make our celebrations of Christmas such fun.
Advance warning on a couple things. First Ash Wednesday is on March 6th. We will be marking that as a Benefice in St James’ at 8pm.
But before that on March 3rd Bishop Jo Bailey-Wells is coming to preach at our 10.30 service. It would be lovely to have a good turn out to welcome her.