YOUR CURATE WRITES…
‘There’s always someone standing on their own outside the crowd
who looks bewildered and confused.
They try to make some sense of all the jostling and the jokes
But still they do not look that amused.
What place, what life, what did they leave behind?
What sights, what sounds, what thoughts are on their mind?
What crimes, what hurt, what wars have you survived?
What hopes, what dreams were left when you arrived?
Who’ll be your refuge, your shelter, your fortress?’
These words are extracts from Howard Goodall’s song ‘Refuge’, which we sang at the Mothering Sunday service way back in March. In the light of recent world events, I find that the words keep on echoing round my head.
As I write, cyclone Fani is slamming into the east coast of India. In 1993, while backpacking around India, I was invited into the straw and wood shacks that were the homes of families in a little fishing village built on the beach about ten miles north of Puri, the area expected to be worst hit by the cyclone. The women of the village pulled me into their home, to shelter from the intense sun, to exclaim at the paleness of my skin and hair, to feed me rice and fish and to paint my eyes with kohl. I, in turn, marvelled at their generosity, warmth and welcome. The little children, running around me all excitedly, asking for ‘one pen please’, will of course now be all grown up, with children of their own. Naturally, I think of these people, perhaps now struggling to survive, and my thoughts also turn to the three million people in Africa who were affected by the cyclones Idai and Kenneth.
The song, ‘Refuge’, speaks of refugees who have been displaced from their homes through war and threat of violence, but at its heart is a message that says ‘I’ll be your refuge’ to all those who need somebody to turn to; people whose lives have been shattered by natural disaster, by war, by finding themselves homeless and destitute even in a first-world country, by crippling anxiety or a whole host of other things which render people vulnerable, unhappy and often desperate.
For over two thousand years the Christian Church has offered support and shelter to those in need; Jesus taught extensively about the need to love and care for the stranger, for the marginalised and the ostracised, the lonely, the oppressed and the unjustly imprisoned. Church buildings have been used for centuries as places of refuge. The aftermath of the terrible loss of life in the church bombings in Sri Lanka in April has brought home to many people the strength of worshipping communities, and how faith itself can be a place of refuge. Those churches will be rebuilt and will continue to offer support to everyone affected by the atrocity, of whatever religion.
Speaking as someone for whom a weather disaster is having rain falling on a line full of washing or a day-trip cancelled, and for whom a hard time in church is having cold hands and feet, and for whom ‘conflict’ usually means a petty disagreement, I feel that it really is very important to keep on reminding myself that those of us born into these easy circumstances have a duty to our fellow human beings, wherever they are in the world, to share some of our good fortune, and to offer not just help, but hope. This means responding to world events when people are in need, and also to keeping our eyes open to see what is happening more locally.
We can all make a difference to the lives of others in the world; in this area, our church buildings (not under threat from either terrorism or natural disaster) can serve as a reminder that the Church is still a place of refuge, both physically (as in Norwich where they shelter homeless people), and for those who need support in other ways. Our worshipping communities welcome all who either wish to offer, or are seeking help or support in any way. Church and village communities, working together, should be able to say:
‘I’ll be your refuge, your shelter, your fortress,
I’ll be your champion.
I’ll be your refuge, your pilot, your brother,
Your northern star.
I will be your second sight;
The light that guides your way at night.
Don’t be downhearted,
I’ll be your refuge, I’ll be your refuge.’
THE RECTOR WRITES
I love social media, it helps me keep up with all my friends’ news. I enjoy the witty things people say and the funny things they share. I especially like the animal videos that get passed around. Social media gets a bad press but like all things in life can be used for good or ill. Its main weakness is that if it is the only way we communicate we are not engaging with people at any depth and we are certainly not giving them much of our time. We are not sharing our story.
As I get older I find the story sharing involves our medical histories and the tablets we are taking! Story sharing is important, it helps us to make sense of life’s events, it gives us a way of sharing joys but also of sharing worries and sadness; “a problem shared is a problem halved”
The clergy do a lot of story sharing. It is a privilege to hear the stories of bereaved families and wedding couples. We also tell lots of stories in our local schools at Beetley, Beeston, Gt Dunham, Litcham and Weasenham, helping children to reflect on life and its meaning. We often enact Bible stories and midst the fun and laughter children are reflecting on serious issues. At Weasenham Church of England School we have introduced a School Eucharist, a Communion service for children and adults together. It recalls the story of Jesus on last evening before his death; love and service amidst cruelty and evil. In September I shall join some of the GCSE lessons at the High School to share the story of my faith journey with them. I’m sure I shall learn much from their stories too.
In September we are opening a Drop-in Cafe on Tuesday mornings at the Jubilee Hall in Litcham. A place to relax, we hope, and a place where, amongst chatter and laughter, people will be able to share their stories. We hope you will ‘drop in’
Happy holidays, Heather
REVEREND JULIA WRITES…
As we reluctantly turn our back on summer it’s good to find ways to cheer up the shorter, darker days that mark the onset of winter. For some it’s cosy jumpers, comfort food and a blazing fire; for others its Halloween and Bonfire night!
The origins of Halloween are pagan: it marked the beginning of the Celtic year when it was believed that Samhain, the lord of death, sent evil spirits abroad to attack humans, who could escape only by assuming disguises and looking like evil spirits themselves. The approach of dark winter made the evil spirits play nasty tricks, most of our Halloween practices can be traced back to these old pagan rites and superstitions.
In the early church, rather than alienating other cultures, Christians assimilated their festivals and traditions. In the 4th century Christians co-opted the holiday by celebrating the lives of faithful Christian saints in a conscious attempt to take attention away from ghouls, goblins and witches and focus instead on the light rather than the dark. More recently the festival has again been co-opted, this time by the dark forces of commerce that encourage children to dress as skeletons, witches, pumpkins and, more confusingly, cowboys and superman, to extract money and sweets from both friends and strangers.
As a church we do not want to be killjoys but neither can we be comfortable with this celebration of dark forces. Alternative ‘Light Parties’ are becoming increasingly popular. I heard of one that ended with a white cake and a joke candle that couldn’t be blown out. A wonderful reminder of the beginning of John’s Gospel that we will soon be hearing at another great festival of light:
‘In him was life,
and that life was the light of men.
The light shines in the darkness,
but the darkness has not overcome it.’
Pre Advent Talk and Discussion ‘Near Neighbours’
24th October 7:00pm at the Methodist Chapel, Litcham
Bishop David Gillett is coming to lead this evening, he writes….
Our two nearest neighbours in the world’s faith communities are Judaism and Islam. We have not always understood each other, or got on well together. This evening will be an opportunity to look at some of the similarities and differences between us. Hopefully, it will give us more background to help us understand, when we come across them, either as near neighbours or through the media. This evening is open to everyone, those of faith or none.
For any more information please contact Heather 01328 700071
Calling all musicians
I am hoping to get together a group of singers to sing at the Group Service at Weasenham St. Peter at 10am on Sunday 29th October. We shall be rehearsed by Colin Dowdeswell, the retired Head of Music at Norwich School. Please sign up young and old, high or low singers.
Rehearsal dates to follow.
I would also like to get together a little music group for the same service. If you can play an instrument and would like to join in, please let me know. Parts will be provided, do come even if you are beginning to learn an instrument. Young and old welcome.
Do give me a ring on 01328 700071 or email [email protected]
Hope to hear from you soon, Heather