Chaplain’s Lent & Easter Letter 2019
As I write this we are now in Lent and I am preparing for The Guild of Vergers Lenten Devotions this evening at St Saviour’s, St Albans. Since Christmas, I have been struck by the amount of change going on in the Guild and over the last year in the lives of individual Vergers.
Most of us don't like change. Sometimes we know it's necessary, but find it uncomfortable; sometimes we will be anxious that things should change because they are unsatisfactory as they are; but mostly we are contented to stay as we are. For the most part too, we prefer other people not to change either – however much we may complain about them!
Truly I tell you, says Jesus, however, unless you change and become like children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven.
Most of the time, even when confronted by what Jesus says, we don't really want to change. I want us to reflect This Lent on change in our Church, in our Parishes and within ourselves.
It is bound to be the case that there will be many changes which we may or may not welcome in our lives. But Christian faith is based on a more fundamental change which happens right within us. Lent is a time, to use the traditional word, particularly for repentance. That word does not mean being miserable! It means changing; changing the direction we are going from towards the world, to towards God; changing from depending on ourselves, on our own strength, to depending on God; changing from being self-centred to being Christ-centred. As Christians, we have to change, and we should be calling others to change too.
We should not be surprised to meet resistance to change, especially when the change is as big as dying to Christ, that we may live his risen life, but that is the change to which we are called by God and to which we call the rest of the world. Each of us needs to recognise that the Church is not here for our benefit, but that we are here as members of Christ's Church for the benefit of those who do not yet know the Lord Jesus.
It may not be our preference to face constant change, but we can glory in the change that God makes in us, and in the change he makes in the world as he builds his Kingdom here on earth as in heaven. Rejoice in what God is doing and will do, and what better time to do that than Lent, Passiontide and Easter:-
Changed from glory into glory
'Till in heaven we take our place
'Till we cast our crowns before Thee
Lost in wonder, love and praise.
Wishing you and your congregations every blessing for a Holy Lent and a Joyous Easter.
Chaplain’s Advent Letter 2018
The clock is ticking. Time goes by. This is my fifth Christmas as your Chaplain at the St Albans Branch of the Guild of Vergers. At the time of writing I’m looking forward to the annual Vergers Christmas Dinner at All Saints Leighton Buzzard and the chance to meet up with old friends. As I look back over this last year, I am very conscious of the major changes that have come about in the lives of our members and the congregations they serve. We all are journeying into the unknown! How reassuring it is to have Jesus as our guide as we follow the ancient paths as our forebears before us.
The clock is ticking. Time goes by. Advent calendars, some with chocolates, encourage us to count time and mark the days until the awaited day! Advent marks the day, as yet unknown, when Jesus comes. We’re in the dark of course because we don’t know the day. But we do know the day of Christmas, and celebrating it is a good contribution to being prepared for that greater day when he comes, or we return to him. As our lives unfold, how much we realise that hearing Jesus’ story has always been the way to get the right perspective on life.
The clock is ticking. Time goes by. New Year is looming, new hopes, new dreams perhaps, or maybe depression – another year, another headache, more pain? For some, the long dark nights and lonely Christmases make this a hard time of year. Look out for those on their own – a word of encouragement, of willingness to support, a gift perhaps, can stop alone-ness becoming loneliness.
If someone in your family or circle of friends seems quiet, perhaps it’s not a gift they want, but rather a word of appreciation, a warm embrace, or simply your company for longer than the gap between your emails, texts and facebook. We all like to be remembered! So in this season of Advent be of good cheer and sing up, remember Jesus, love, and you’ll get the hang of this season and you will be ready for next year too!
With every blessing to you and the ones you love during the Advent and Christmas Seasons.Fr Andrew
Chaplain’s Michaelmas Letter 2018
It will soon be Michaelmas. The festival of St Michael the Archangel on 29th September originated before the 7th century in the annual commemoration of the dedication of a church in his honour near Rome.
Michael was also venerated in Judaism and is looked upon as special guardian of the sick in the eastern churches. There was a church dedicated to him just outside Constantinople dating from the time of the Emperor Constantine in the first half of the 4th century. Until the 20th century no other archangel was commemorated in a feast day. Now the same day also commemorates with Michael, Gabriel, the angel of the Annunciation, and Raphael, both of whom have long been venerated in the Eastern Orthodox Tradition.
The Archangel Michael is regarded as the greatest of all the Archangels and is honoured for defeating Lucifer in the war in heaven. He is one of the principal angelic warriors seen as a protector against the dark of night and the administrator of cosmic intelligence.
All this will go largely unnoticed in our society.
In fact, have you ever wondered if our mass media have forgotten Jesus himself?
In a multi-cultural society there are many forces at work which tend, either deliberately or accidentally, to lead to forgetfulness of Jesus. Much of the media seems dominated by a secular ethos hardly ever mentioning the Church or Christianity. Many media outlets are only interested in scandal or trouble. Good works are not newsworthy.
Remembrance is a tricky word because it can so easily be understood as wistful nostalgia, escapist fantasy. There might be nothing to distinguish our remembering of Jesus from that of any other historical figure. But that would be to deny our belief in the resurrection and the work of the Holy Spirit in bringing to mind all that Jesus said. Our remembrance of Jesus in Word and Sacrament, in liturgy and prayer, is not simply something we do, although our doing of it faithfully is important, but a vehicle used by the Holy Spirit, to make the risen Christ present in the Church and the world today.
These are not the only means of Christ’s presence; a mistake we religious people are prone to make. However, they are means of Christ’s presence on which we can rely and which help us, if we are attentive to them, to recognise Jesus present in the world around us.
All Saints will soon be upon us; a time for remembrance of all our faithful forebears who have passed the faith down the generations.
We should not forget our wonderful Church buildings, maintained at a considerable cost to keep our visible presence at the heart of our communities. These are all first and foremost for that active remembrance of Jesus Christ. We have not forgotten Jesus and we will not do so, so that the people to whom we are sent in our generation may know of God’s love for his world.
With all blessings on you and the congregations you serve.
Yours in Christ