Yes November is the month for remembering. Both good and bad memories alike seem to span the days of this month. Starting on the 1st we remember, not only the Saints of the Church but also those who have been close and dear to us personally, on All Saints and All Souls Day.
Closely followed on 5th we recall happy childhood memories of Guy Fawkes Day accompanied with its traditional bonfires and fireworks. The smell of smoke and taste of toasted marshmallows may well be a happy childhood memory for many of us, as we wrapped up with mittens, hats and scarves to hold the sparklers, and watch the fireworks explode with bright colours in the night sky.
Not so happy, of course, are the memories of Armistice Day and Remembrance Sunday when we commemorate the loss of so many lives in two world wars and other more recent conflicts - conflicts which still continue today. These are sobering thoughts which help to motivate us to seek for peace in our world and community - peace which needs to begin with us.
But, where can we find that peace? I am reminded of the words of Jesus who said - "my peace I give unto you....". Maybe this is one of the most important roles of the church today to bring peace to those who are troubled, and comfort to those who are distressed. Each week congregations gather in our churches to share in Holy Communion as an act of remembrance of the Last Supper and find their peace in corporate worship. But the church is more than that. It is here to serve the whole community in times of joy, sadness, sickness and confusion; and is always open for private prayer.
This November, and all year....REMEMBER, REMEMBER your church is here for you, whatever your need.
Earlier today when I looked out of my windows I could have sung 'Oh, what a beautiful Morning, Oh what a beautiful day'. Now it is all rather miserable, leaves just hanging, no bright colours, and the words, 'change and decay' come to mind. We are into Autumn; the summer is gone. Dead leaves blow around.
Change, of season, children have changed their classes and schools. Some off to college and university somewhere across the water. Changes at church, changes to our future as our Parishes are in vacancy. But we are not alone, churches across the Island and on the mainland are, like us, playing a waiting game.
But let us be positive, it's Harvest Festival time. Churches to be decorated with shiny apples and pears, enormous marrows. Will our local gardeners bring any of their best produce to offer on our altars. Or will we be better focusing on tinned and packet foods which can replenish the store cupboards of them who depend upon the food banks. Could each one of us who are fortunate enough not to need the help, put extra contributions into the boxes for the foodbanks, as well as bringing our own gifts to the parish church?
Harvest is such an encouraging time in our church calendar, singing our favourite harvest hymns, opportunities to give thanks for the earth and all its riches. Fruits of the forest, the orchards and hedgerows. I have seen wonderful, fat juicy blackberries which I can't reach for myself, alas. It is our time to thank God for creation and all its bounty, to thank Him for those who plant and gather in the harvest, for those who work in the food processing industries and who buy and sell and deliver. So please join your parish church in their celebration of the harvest.
Harvest over and it will be time to look forward to All Saints Sunday, All souls, Remembrance and Poppies. Then, before you know it, Advent will be upon us. The church year is full of change but also opportunities to be part of what we do together as disciples and loving neighbours. Each of us brings our gifts, all different according to our skills and talents.
What will you bring? I can bring my gifts as a priest, not a priest-in-charge, but out of my experience and because as a retired priest I have time and the know-how, as well as the Bishop's permission to Officiate. Let us all work together harmoniously in the loving arms of the God who created us all in love.
To everything there is a season,
and a time to every purpose under the heaven: Ecclesiastes CH3 - vs1.
Our Priest in Charge, Rob with his family, Anthea and Luke have now left us for pastures new. Our best wishes go with them as they enter a new phase of their lives on the mainland. They have decided to take their lives in a new direction. A new venture which I am sure will create new challenges and changes in their lives. Their leaving our community will of course ultimately affect changes within the parish of St Helens and Seaview, both within the Churches and within the Communities of St Helens and Seaview.
We live in a world of constant change and there is no escape. There are some people who are always ready to embrace change, enthusiastically confronting and taking up new challenges, whereas others find change difficult to handle and would prefer that things stay just as they are, sticking with what we know and not wanting, or even seeing the need to move forward and step out of our comfort zone.
Change is inevitable, especially if we are going to move forward, developing our communities, our churches and of course our own lifestyles. So when we are confronted by change let us hope that we will be able to take up the challenge positively, seeing change, not as a stumbling block, but as an opportunity to enhance our communities, our churches, and our own lives.
Just when the caterpillar thought the world was over,
it became a butterfly...
A quote from a book by Cecelia Ahern
Earlier this year my family and I took the difficult decision that the 'stretch of water' between us and elderly family members and others who had health problems, was becoming too difficult to manage, and that we needed to move back to the mainland. This move happens at the end of August, and will of course be quite a wrench for us as a family after all that we have been blessed with on the Isle of Wight and in these two parishes.
Perhaps a fixed-link to the mainland would have solved the problem of worry and the sense of separation that we have felt in this last year?
There is a way in which we can think of Jesus as a 'fixed-link'- A bridge who reconciles and connects heaven to earth, and who links people eternally together with one-another and with God; A saviour who takes our worries and burdens and provides us with direction and purpose. "I am the way and the truth and the life" Jesus says in John 14 chapter six.
Yet Jesus is so much more than a bridge or route to the kingdom of heaven (which of course is a kingdom of here and now, as well as a kingdom of the future) - Jesus is also our travelling companion, our friend and guide as we travel the journey of becoming more fully the people God wants us to be. Jesus heals and restores us along the way, lifts us up when we fall, and provides food that sustains us.
Human life and circumstance may throw many changes, obstacles and challenges in our path - as well as joys and wonders. In all of these Jesus is our constant companion whose love for us never falters, come what may.
So as my family and I look ahead with mixed emotions, it is comforting to remember that in Jesus Christ, nothing is lost, no-one is an island, and that we are all one in God's love.
Anthea Luke and I would like to thank the people of St Helens and Seaview, and all on this island who have made our time here so special:
May the road rise up to meet you
May the wind be always at your back
May the sun shine warm upon your face
The rains fall soft upon your fields - and until we meet again
For those with school-age children the summer holiday season begins towards the end of this month. Living on the 'year-round holiday isle' of the Isle of Wight, however, most of us are aware of a steady stream of visitors to this destination who come, young and old, seeking sun, relaxation, peace and beauty. Being a 'holiday island' is vital to the Isle of Wight's social and economic welfare. Other island destinations around the world may specialise in more obvious 'escapism' through exotic landscapes, conspicuous luxury and perhaps a more general use of 'recreational' drugs and excessive alcohol. On the whole, we do things more gently here...escapism is less the point for visitors here, than is a sense of 'slowing down', finding peace and a restoration of harmony.
Perhaps, as much as sand, sea, sunshine and rural landscapes, what makes the Isle of Wight such a haven of peace and restoration, may be it's centuries of Christian faith and worship. Certainly we get holiday visitors to our churches who rarely if ever go to church when 'at home'. Perhaps the Isle of Wight is still a land that is Holy, and perhaps this enhances holidays.
Of course, peace, slowing down and a restoration of harmony are not things we should ration or only seek when on holiday. There are many horrors and troubles in our world which we might seek to escape through hedonism or denial, but such an escape is only temporary.
What human beings need is a more permanent sense of peace which comes from knowing that there is a God and that God loves them. A sense of peace which comes from a knowledge of, and trust in God's love for all people.
At a certain point in history - just before Jesus was arrested and then Crucified, he met with his disciples, and despite the political and religious danger and friction of the times, and the sadness of saying 'farewell' spoke words of peace to his friends. Jesus said: "Peace I leave with you; my peace I give to you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled, and do not let them be afraid" (John 14:27)
Jesus doesn't give us escapism, nor is Christianity 'the opium of the people'. Instead, Jesus enters into the reality of our daily lives with all our joys and sorrows, and proves God's love for us. Constantly, consistently, faithfully, loving us. Love wins.
I pray that whenever you holiday, and whenever you don't, you will know the reality of God's love for you, and the peace which Jesus brings.