Well, it is all now official, and a new 'Benefice' has been born as the churches of Seaview, St Helens and Brading and Yaverland are now a working partnership.
This grouping of churches, with myself as the vicar for all of them, will take a little while to settle but try not to worry as I come from a valley of eight parishes and ten churches so have some experience of churches working together!
My understanding is that the key to a vibrant united benefice is 'difference', with each church shining out in their own way. Each of the churches has strengths that are distinctive, histories that have shaped them and the surrounding communities that they serve vary in culture. This focus on the local is maybe a shift from the view of the recent past that advocated monopoly thinking and economies of scale at the expense of diversity. However it is now thought that unity in difference is in fact a more creative and encouraging model for not just church but in the secular world too.
As each church looks to see what they are best at so it is necessary to be honest about the weaknesses too and as a benefice explore how each community can offer help to the other. We will also be looking at ways in which we can work creatively together and enjoy a wider fellowship across the churches. We will be observing how that liberates more people for niche events and services such as evensong, new theologically challenging and exciting house groups and groups developing Christian Spirituality, as well as like minded people to continue and enhance deeply rooted service to our communities.
Most importantly as spring turns into summer we think about how this new Benefice reflects the creative power of love; love between us and for those around us. How our churches can continue to be a haven for those in spiritual, physical or emotional need. This is a quality of our Being and not our Doing and a new start gives us a perfect place for reconciliation and restoration as we follow Jesus' teaching and forgive one another and serve one another.
Just a short piece this month as I arrive to say a heart-felt thank you from myself and Phil for your welcome as we arrived in the Parishes. It is for us a very happy return home to the Island that we love and to communities that we are very much looking forward to being a part of.
The main priority for me, as your priest, is that I am available for everyone in the Parishes, for those who attend church regularly as well as those who do not and for those who look to the church as a place of blessing and a spiritual anchor in stormy times.
Our beautiful churches speak, in their presence and their architecture, of the historic longing of people for connection and meaning. They belong to everyone, as do I. I am really looking forward to supporting the PCCs and our local ministry team as they continue to do their valuable work sustaining the fabric of the churches and offering pastoral care alongside uplifting worship. I will also get involved in the community, in the schools and supporting local clubs and businesses wherever and whenever I can.
So with that in mind please do invite me for tea, for a chat, or a dog walk on the beach!
I find names fascinating. The process by which somebody is given their name is so haphazard that it can hardly influence the person, and yet we treat the name as an insight into a person's character or abilities. That is not always true, and sometimes names seem to have been chosen to confuse. The names given to English Acts of Parliament for example: If you see a title such as "For the Preservation of Game" you can be pretty certain that it empowers certain people to kill as many pheasants as they can manage in a morning and afternoon, which is a pretty roundabout way of being impressively "green".
This month starts with Easter Day - the Christian commemoration of that event which we believe is the hinge of human history - when we celebrate the Resurrection or Raising of Jesus Christ from death to life. The name "Easter" is thought to derive from the Anglo-Saxon, either alluding to the idea of the light of the Risen Christ which was symbolised by the rising sun (in the east), or like many other instances, taking over former pagan celebrations previously connected with this time of year - there was a cult of a pagan god called Eostre - and the Celtic missionaries from lona and Lindisfarne who brought the Christian Gospel to the English were adept at attaching the new ideas to the best of what was reassuringly healthy and familiar.
But what do we make of the name of that other more sombre festival which came just at the end of last month - "Good Friday" ? Whatever can be "good" about the commemoration of the judicial murder by crucifixion of a man whose judge had said was innocent of any crime? It could only be "good" if what happened was of far greater significance than first appeared.
Yes, we Christians believe that Good Friday is good because it tells us four things: first, the evil things we do have consequences (we know this of course, for they hurt us and those we love, and God himself). Secondly, we find it impossible to deal with all the consequences of evil, no matter how hard we struggle. Thirdly, because Christ did not deserve any punishment - he alone of all mankind never sinned - his death on the cross has dealt with all the consequences of sin. The Prayer Book puts it like this: "he made there by his one oblation of himself once offered a full, perfect and sufficient sacrifice, oblation and satisfaction for the sins of the whole world."
Nobody has sinned or ever will in such a way that their sins have not been dealt with by Christ's sacrifice. And that's the fourth thing we learn from Good Friday: Though we could not deal with the consequences of our sins God sent his Son to do what we could not do.
How do we know that this is true? Because though Christ died on the cross on that dark Good Friday afternoon, after three days God raised him from the dead on that first Easter morning, when the women who had known and loved him went to the empty tomb, just as the day was dawning, and met him on the way.
Christ has died. Christ is risen. Christ will come again.
Our beautiful Island, the place we call our home. So full of opportunities to go and meet like-minded people - sailing, swimming and sports clubs, art, historical and cultural societies, coffee mornings, lunches, churches. I'm sure many of us have our regular 'ports of call' where we like to meet up with our friends and have a natter.
How do you choose which groups to join, where do your interests lie, what makes you want to 'give it a go'? Initially, it's often something you're already interested in, want to enjoy and know more about. Sometimes it's an opportunity to try something new - learn a new craft, improve your physical health, stretch your mind, deepen your understanding or faith. Maybe someone has encouraged you to join, to go with them and be introduced into the group. It always helps when you know someone who's already there. Sometimes though, you decide to try something new, where you don't know anyone who already goes. It can be a daunting experience. 'Will anyone speak to me? Will I be made welcome, or will I go home having shared a joint venture, but having an isolating experience?' Maybe no one really spoke to you beyond a brief 'Hello', before moving on to talk to their friends, instead of introducing you to them. Do you feel encouraged to go again?
We've all of us experienced going along somewhere full of expectation, keen to join a group, but have not really felt welcomed. We've tried it for a week or two, and then not wanted to go again. Maybe we'll try something else, or maybe we won't bother.
I think most people do enjoy going out, are welcoming to others, sharing their company, sharing their interests and making a new circle of friends. But we don't all find it easy. We are so lucky to have so many groups and activities in our villages. Could you be the one to offer a friendly smile and a word of encouragement to others? Could you perhaps ask someone to go along with you, to share your time, your interests and your friends? And if you do, do you know that they'll feel welcomed and want to go again? And if you see someone new at your group, will you welcome them and help them feel at home?
After all, a friendly smile and a word of welcome can go such a long way towards building up a new and lasting friendship.
"When will she take the Christmas tree down??!!" was a comment overheard in church which reminded me there are different views about when Christmas ends. Twelfth night on 6th January which is Epiphany? Or, as soon as possible after Christmas before the dust settles and the needles drop? Or, as late as possible to ensure the festive spirit lasts into the new year? I do not know the right answer but the official church view is that Candlemas on 2nd February is the end of the Christmas and Epiphany season when we celebrate the presentation of Jesus in the temple. But surely the real question for us as Christians should be, not when, but does Christmas ever end?