Thursday, 18 October 2018

Rhythm of Life

We used to sing The Rhythm of Life in one of the choirs I once belonged to.  It was an easy start yet as we went on it became increasingly difficult keeping up with the pace and rhythm as it got faster and faster.  

This morning I drove out to a friend's church through the autumnal glory of the Buckinghamshire countryside on a sunny day.  This time of year the leaves are dying and as they do so give us a riot of colour; a final burst of glory before dropping to the ground. So, I found myself reflecting on this 'rhythm' of life.

I did that with even greater intent because I was meeting up with a minister friend on her last day on the 'job'.  Today she leaves her church after a faithful ministry and to 'celebrate' this moment two of us shared a meal with her in the beautiful church hall which acts as a splendid community cafe once a week.  It was an 'ending' and yet, as she leaves, the church community she has served so well will go on into another phase of its corporate life, even as she enters a new chapter of hers.  There's rhythm all around us.

Such reflecting was made even deeper as I listened to the car radio en route only to hear of a 100-year-old lady who got married yesterday to a bridegroom in his seventies.  The lady walked down the aisle to the Abba song Dancing Queen! At a time when most people might be thinking of endings here are a couple just beginning!

In a way I think of this time of year, autumn, not so much in terms of ending but resting.  The trees around us have come into bud and as the length of each day of spring and early summer grew longer so they blossomed and flourished.  For a long time these leaves remained green and soaked up valuable sunshine, feeding the trees on which they sat.  

And now, after a riot of colour announcing their farewell, these same leaves fall to the ground and it’s as if the spinneys, copses and forests are beginning their long annual 'rest'.  It's a rhythm which has been going on successfully and constantly for centuries and, although true biologists will be tearing their hair out reading such an unscientific description, I believe nature is a good teacher.

The rhythm of life and faith can never just be about blossoming and flourishing.  We need those reflective seasons when we think it through, ponder it afresh, take a step back and 'rest'.  Spring will come again but for now autumn is bidding.  

'Rhythm' - it's a hard word to spell and perhaps an even harder idea to practise .  Yet maybe, if we get better at the 'down time', the rhythm of life will teach us that 'autumn' moments are truly valuable and in the wider scheme of things will help us bear Spring blossom and Summer fruit.

Blog holiday next week!

Friday, 12 October 2018

Aerosol Words

This week I’ve attended my regional Ministers’ Conference – three days with forty Baptist pastors – it’s either been heaven or hell depending on your point of view!!

I loved the meal time conversations and the opportunity to catch up with colleagues and I really appreciate all the effort that goes in to making these occasions possible for us.

One of our speakers was the wonderful Ann Morisy.  Ann came to Amersham a few years ago and took our Elders’ Training Day on the theme of ‘Ministry to Seniors’ – she was as brilliant then as she was this week. She combines a gentle Liverpudlian humour with the sharp insights of a sociologist who works in a Christian context.  We learnt so much from her wise words.

One of her asides, however, will linger most in my mind.  She spoke of ‘Aerosol words’.  At first I was puzzled as to what she meant.

For her, aerosol words and phrases are used at those times when we want to spray around some warm feeling without really defining too much what we mean.  ‘Community’, said Ann, is an obvious ‘aerosol’ word – in the Church we use it all the time, yet maybe we are not too sure what it really means.  I guess ‘inclusivity’ might be another one, and probably those theological words like ‘Kingdom of God’ or ‘Eternal Life’ are also ones we spray around but would need to think hard about as to what they really mean.

Well – I put my hand up – no one is more guilty of aerosol words than me!

Yet I suspect that even if I might be hard pressed to come up with a comprehensive definition of words like ‘community’ or ‘compassion’ – the reality is I know what these words mean when I see love in action. 

I know it looks like:
-        Selfless giving
-        Dedicated service
-        Authentic living
-        Thoughtful commitment

Next week I’ll do my thinking without thirty- nine other colleagues around me – but for this week I give thanks for the fun we’ve had and all we learnt together.

Friday, 5 October 2018

Happy Birthday Sycamore Club

On Wednesday of this week we held a 40th Birthday Party for Sycamore Club. 

The club, sponsored by Churches Together on The Hill, Amersham (COTHA), provides one day a week when folk with dementia can attend – thus giving them a stimulating day and their carers a ‘day off’.  It’s staffed by very faithful and committed volunteers and this year celebrates its ‘Ruby’ anniversary.  To mark the occasion a service was held – led by The Revd Peter Binns, the club’s president from St Michael’s and a tea was hosted afterwards by Beverley (who has co-ordinated the club for a decade now) and her team.

It was a moving occasion, especially remembering those who had the vision for this activity forty years ago – in many ways they were ahead of their time.

On Wednesday, during the worship in church, we sang the hymn Loving Shepherd of thy sheep. I was especially struck by the appropriateness of the first verse which goes: keep thy lamb in safety, keep; nothing can thy power withstand, none can pluck me from thy hand.

Dementia, sometimes known as ‘the long goodbye’, can seem to us a cruel state of mind.  That hymn just reminded me that people we love who might at times seem ‘lost’ to us through this condition, are held in the love of God and nothing can pluck them from his hand.  Such a thought, I believe, gives continuing dignity and worth to them – to sense that they are honoured and valued by The Good Shepherd.

So Happy Birthday Sycamore Club, and thank you for your weekly work of loving, down to earth compassion these last forty years.

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