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.
The end of the year is in sight, and the New Year soon to follow. We will mark the change in one way or another with a party or simply on our own. We move from one year to the other and the seasonal cycle begins once again. What might this coming year hold? We cannot be sure, some things might be certain, but how we feel and react when we come to them has no such surety.
There is a similarity with Christmas presents from certain people, you know it is coming, but whether you can manage to look excited about it is an open question. When Jesus received those first Christmas presents of Gold, Frankincense and Myrrh, l am not sure what face he pulled, or even if he noticed them at all, but we know that his mother pondered on the matter. What did the gifts mean, why had these foreigners travelled so far just to bring them? They were looking beyond the immediate and transient to something that was eternal and everlasting, and their gifts reflected that.
In a sense the New Year is a present, it is a gift that we receive; none of us knows how many gifts of “New Years”, we may have in a lifetime. How will this one treat us, and we it? What will we make of it. Will we make the most of each days potential, or for whatever reason will we only manage to get some of it. At the end of 2019 will we feel good about what we have achieved or will we feel that we have squandered a lot of what we could have done? And when the sum total of all those gifts is tallied, what will we have done that will last beyond our lifetime.
Jesus’ advice on how to make the most of each day, was to trust God, by seeking His Kingdom first and the rest would sort itself, or “be added unto you” to use a more biblical phrase. And maybe that is the way to take every New Year, one day at a time putting our trust in God and seeking the Kingdom of God, its values, its hopes, and its presence.
King George reminded our nation of this in 1939 when facing a most daunting coming New Year 'I said to the man who stood at the Gate of the Year, "Give me a light that I may tread safely into the unknown." And he replied, "Go out into the darkness, and put your hand into the Hand of God. That shall be to you better than light, and safer than a known way."'
A very joyous Christmas, and Happy New Year from Mad and myself to you all!
From the Rector’s Desk.
Thank you for the many kind messages on our 25 years amongst you, and for those who came and took part in our communion service on the 4th of November.
Both our Remembrance Day services were extremely well attended, which was great, and thank you to those who took part and contributed to those Centennial events.
Our usual array of Christmas services are listed so do please come along to those, and also to the Quiet Spaces service in St James’ at the beginning of the month, take the most of the opportunity to have some quiet reflective space before it all kicks off, lovely though that is.
One hundred years ago this November both my grandmothers were relieved to know that their husbands had survived. At the same time, Abinger was coming to terms with the loss of their schoolmaster Herbert Carpenter among others. In Coldharbour the Longhurst, Capon and Hunt families felt the loss of two family members, and the families in the big houses of Anstie Grange and Broome Hall had lost precious sons. These stories, are of course replicated in Holmbury and Wotton and countless other communities across our nation.
With a flourish of ink on paper at 11am on the 11th of November the war was ended. Except of course, that it wasn’t. Hostilities may have ceased but the war was not over. It continued in the grief and loss that three generations felt, and not just for those who died overseas, but also for those who died as part of the war effort in industry, and civilians in airship attacks The loss of the older generation of their children, the middle generation who lost partners, siblings, cousins and friends, and the younger generation who lost parents, uncles and aunts and family friends. It continued in the psychological damage caused by unspoken terrors and images inflicted on the mind. It continued in the physically maimed, disfigured and scarred. It continued in the camaraderie that had been forged under fire and was later to find expression in the British Legion It continued in the Imperial War Graves Commission and Imperial War Museum. It continued in the building of memorials in villages, towns and cities; village greens, parks, halls and houses of refuge, mostly paid for by public subscription. It continued, of course, in the national consciousness by the building of the Cenotaph and the holding of Remembrance Day with the hope it would indeed be the War to end all wars.
When the Padre spoke to my grandfather on the 11th of November about the Armistice he was surprised to find that he felt it was the worst day of the war. The Padre quoted Jesus’ words about “if your enemy is hungry feed him”, to which my grandfather replied “l would make sure he was very hungry first.” The sense of outrage against an enemy is hard to control, to keep it from turning into revenge and becoming unjust is even harder. Sadly the peace established 100 years ago laid the seeds for a later conflict. You may indeed feel as my as my grandfather did, and want to make an enemy very hungry, and you may well bring that to effect, but being prepared to feed them when they are, is very different from keeping them starving. Humiliation will bring its own desire for vengeance. The railway carriage used in 1918 to sign the Armistice was used by Hitler to sign the peace when France fell in 1940 to complete the circle. It is a circle that can be continued or broken; pain and hurt, grief and loss demand its continuance, courage in the face of all those things calls for it to be broken.
As the memories become more distant, and those of us who knew someone who was there become fewer, may the words of Abraham Lincoln, shortly before the end of the American Civil War, become our resolve “With malice toward none, with charity for all, with firmness in the right as God gives us to see the right, let us strive on to finish the work we are in, to bind up the nation's wounds, to care for him who shall have borne the battle and for his widow and his orphan, to do all which may achieve and cherish a just and lasting peace among ourselves and with all nations”
That concept of “malice towards none and charity for all” makes all the difference. They are the hallmarks of those who seek to live out Jesus’ challenge to be different, to forgive, and love our neighbour as ourselves. To some such thoughts may seem naïve and politically foolish, but to others it is the hope of the world!
We honour the memory of past villagers and their sacrifice and pray, as they did, for peace.
The other day I was reading about a church that had opened a shop to sell second hand items and in doing so provided part time employment and experience for those in the parish who were unemployed. They were so successful that, with the profits they made, they were able to give funding to help a neighbouring parish do the same. In some small way SJ’s Café does the same through its micro funding through Kiva. We have helped 39 different individuals or groups, mainly in Bolivia; we have raised nearly $500 dollars in units of $25 and by the loans being repaid and re-lent, we have been able to lend a total of nearly $1,000 ! These loans have made a difference to the people who are trying to make a living in difficult circumstances.
Jesus always wanted his disciples to make a difference, and down the centuries they have. They were the leading examples of care in the community from the earliest of times of the existence of the church. Hospitals and schools were very much at heart of what the church tried to do. Of course it is very easy to loose one’s way in an increasingly complex and global world and probably at many moments in history the church has missed the point and failed to be what God wants it to be. But we should not give up trying because of failures in the past.
Our inspiration should come from seeing the individual worth of each and every person. Of course Christians are not the only ones who can value people by any means. Yet the unique perspective of the Christian is that we believe that we are all made in the image of God and are loved and desired by Him.
Harvest is a good time to remember that. As Jesus reminded us the sun shines on the righteous and the unrighteous. God shows no favour towards any individual. The harvest will be good or bad for all in any particular region. The Old Testament people of God recognised that, they brought the first fruits as an offering, in hope and trust for the coming harvest; and then offered a percentage of that harvest when it was gathered. They also made sure that gleanings could be gathered by those in need. By and large in today’s world we have evened out our harvest to weekly pay checks or monthly salaries. We will try and focus on a particular need at our Harvest service, but it is good to remember that we can help others all year round.
Just a couple of reminders, now that the new term is now well under way.
At St James’ the SJ’s Café has restarted on a Wednesday morning, do join us when you can. Also to remind you that both Christ Church and St James’ have collection points for the Dorking Food Bank, we want to give as much support to them as we can.
Do join us for our Harvest Celebration and stay for the auction of produce afterwards. If you have any garden produce to supply along with anything produced in the kitchen or crafts you have made please let us auction them off.
We are starting a new Life Group study season this Autumn, do please contact the Parish Office if you are interested in joining us.