The accompanying service (30 minutes) is intended primarily for those who have lost loved ones between September 2019 and August 2020 and whose service took place in the Severn Valley Churches or with one of our team.
Of course, anyone who has lost a loved one over this last year is welcome to view this service and we hope it will bring some comfort, reassurance and hope in sad and troubled times.
St Mary’s have now launched their new on-line giving facility. Click here to visit the Support Us page
Saving Christmas and keeping Advent
So now we know; there is a plan to “save Christmas”; up to 3 household mixing for five days. I am aware of the pain of loneliness and isolation that is always especially sharp at Christmas and so I am glad that there will be ways to bring people together. But I am also aware of the risks associated with this; the vaccine is not yet deployed, the virus remains virulent when people mix at close quarters. As the prime minister aptly put it, we need to be jolly careful to have a jolly Christmas and a happy New Year. I’ve recently been pondering the thoughts of David Thompson, a retired Bishop who lives in the diocese of Hereford. I am grateful for David’s permission to use his words.
“[Christmas] is all about …saving us, not us saving it. That is about real light shining perilously in real darkness, not fairy lights on a tree. …. Even if warm hearths and family togetherness are what we long for, they are powerful because they speak not just of a kiss under the mistletoe or a blow-out meal but of a deeper sense that winter will not have things all its own way, of unconquerable light. We’ve been celebrating it since Stonehenge, and we want and need to celebrate it now.
From ancient times Christians kept fasts before they dived into their feasts. They didn’t take the waiting out of wanting: they knew that a bit of waiting, a bit of preparing, a bit of pondering, would make the feast all the more fun.
Cue Advent: not just the Advent of a boozy miniature a day in December, but the Advent that starts 4 Sundays before Christmas and takes us slowly and carefully through the Bible’s story of how we got into this pickle we call life, and how God’s plan to join us in it and raise us from it came to pass. It’s all those readings you’ve heard at a traditional Carol Service, but old school, taken slowly, savoured for all they’re worth. Then at Christmas the Great Twelve Days of Feasting can begin.
So, this year, how about Saving Christmas by Keeping Advent? Look for safe ways to buy the presents and order the food. Give some time to writing some personal cards or messages. Then dust down your Bible and look up the stories for yourself. Light a candle for each Sunday. And enjoy the peace. Peace now, as you give Christmas the best chance it can have of going off well; and the promise of a peace that passes our understanding that can surround us come what may.”
Rev David Poyner
Church and State
Early in November, in many places, civic and church leaders met together for Remembrance Sunday. The Church of England is part of our state; we recognise the Queen as the head of the church. This Sunday, the 22nd, the Church remembers a different type of authority; we mark the Festival of Christ the King. How do we balance the claims of Christ and the state on our lives?
At the very start of the Second World War, Bishop George Bell pondered this question. Bell is now a very controversial figure due to allegations of child abuse. But regardless of these, his words still challenge me on what the church is for and how it sits alongside the state.
“The State has a function, and the Church has a function. They are distinct. The State is the guarantor of order, justice and civil liberty. It acts by the power of restraint, legal and physical. The Church, on the other hand, is charged with a gospel of God’s redeeming love. It witnesses to a Revelation in history. It speaks of the realities which outlast change. It aims at creating a community founded on love, So when all the resources of the State are concentrated, for example, on winning a war, the Church is not a part of those resources. It stands for something different from these. It possesses an authority independent of the State. It is bound, because of that authority, to proclaim the realities which outlast change. It has to preach the gospel of redemption. [In short, the Church] is not the State’s spiritual auxiliary with exactly the same ends as the State. To give the impression that it is, is both to do a profound disservice to the nation and to betray its own principles…”
Rev David Poyner