View from the Vicar
They say Christmas comes earlier every year, but even I was surprised when through my letterbox this week came a missive from The Children's Society encouraging me to start planning for Christingle!
Well, of course, in one sense, planning ahead is a good idea, but on the other hand, six months does seem a bit excessive. It fits, though, into a pattern of encouraging us always to be looking to the next thing, the next event, the next challenge, rather than enjoying the present one. And there are signs that many of us want to live differently. The rise of the 'slow food' movement, with its emphasis on celebrating the local and the traditional and on the preparation and consumption of food as a community event is one such sign; the development of 'slow TV' is another, as is the growing popularity of mindfulness not just as a counselling or psychotherapy approach, but as a survival skill in schools and offices, is a third. Mindfulness proclaims the importance of noticing and appreciating the ‘here and now’ without seeking to always be on to the next thing.
Well, I wouldn't want to claim that the Christian church is always in the forefront of new social movements (and you wouldn’t believe me if I did!), the long-established cycle of the Church year, Advent, Christmas, Epiphany, Lent, Easter and so on does help to earth us in the 'here and now'. Right now at St. James, we are in 'ordinary time' – a concept that doesn't really sell itself, but which means those periods of the year outside the major festivals and celebrations. Periods of the year for quietly getting on with things, not planning the next big event. Periods of the year for reflecting on the world God has given us, symbolised in those churches like St. James where colour is used by the colour green (for the created world).
And it is not just 'ordinary time' that allows us to stop, take stock and seek refreshment and renewal. There are holidays, too. The practice of stopping work for a major festival, of course, long pre-dates the Christian faith, but the widespread celebration of saints' days and 'holy days', of stepping aside from the pressures of everyday life, laid the foundations for our current expectations of holidays.
Well, I hope that if you are taking one, it will be a good and refreshing break. For myself, some of you will already know that I am going to be away on sabbatical from the 1st August until 31st October. A sabbatical is a sustained period away from the coal-face to recharge batteries and undertake a sustained programme of study. My sabbatical will be even more enjoyable as it starts with our daughter's wedding at Cogges in August. While I am away, pastoral care and leadership of services will be undertaken by colleagues from Cogges (01993 779613) and I am sure they will be only too happy to help if needed.
May I wish you a restful and blessed summer.
Nick Pike ~ Associate Minister