The September message from Annette
This is my first letter after being on Sabbatical, which has been a very special time, and I am so grateful for the tremendous gift from the church – both locally in releasing me for the three months, and the national church for funding. So, thank you.
I had a conversation recently where I mentioned that sometimes people say their life hasn’t been “a bed of roses” by which they mean a cushion of rose petals – but in reality, life is a bed of roses; with thorns, and possibly black spot, or green fly, and dry stems! But without the thorns, and the effort that it takes to tend to rose bushes there wouldn’t be rose flowers.
Other conversations I have been having with people about my time on sabbatical have reminded me about another turn of phrase that I sometimes use – that “people are like precious diamonds”, with different facets each making up the whole; part of which is deep and almost unseen in the setting, some forming the overall shape which enables other to reflect light, and without any facet the diamond would not be complete. Some facets seem completely different to others, but are all part of the whole.
You may also hear people say that life has chapters. Good books take a journey through different chapters. Some chapters clearly following on into a new scene which makes sense from what is already unfolding; some chapters introduce new characters; sometimes chapters take a completely different and surprising turn which doesn’t seem to relate to the expected story, and then only make sense further through the story, or even when the conclusion is being shared.
Apparently, good preachers have three points… well here’s a fourth! For me people are like snowflakes – each one unique and very special.
My sabbatical has had both times of Sabbath and times of studying aspects of church growth – spiritual refreshment and physical relaxation alongside reading and visiting churches. What remains very clear to me is that there is no “one size fits all.” Life for individuals, and for ‘churches’ has many facets, different chapters, thorns as well as fragrance…
There is far too much to share about my sabbatical experience to begin to attempt even a precis in the space of a letter, so I would like to invite you to a morning with me when I can share with you about things that I have done and experienced, things that I have observed and learned, and what I hope can be done with those experiences and observations to benefit the ‘church.’ Please see below.
May God guide and bless us as we journey into new chapters in the multi-faceted bed of roses life of our churches; as we journey into new chapters in the life of our wider denomination within Missional Partnerships and also the wider church of God.
The October message from Alison
October! ‘Season of mists and mellow fruitfulness’ and as I look out my study window at the apple trees at the bottom of the garden I think they can hardly bear the weight of their mellow fruitfulness this year. It has been a remarkable summer.
But the weeks of late September early October are also the Church’s opportunity to celebrate the harvest and while the apples and plums may have done well farmers and wildlife recorders round the country see a different picture as a result of the long dry summer, and when I heard a panellist on Gardeners question time say that the long range forecast was for 5 more years of similar summers my mind was quickly drawn to the Joseph story and the seven lean cattle and seven fat cattle. And the famine that drove a whole people from their homeland to seek food and work in Egypt.
Because we were not alone in having record temperatures, and we were not alone in having either drought or deluge. It was a strange summer for many countries and food production across the world has been affected. And while we may simply grumble at the rising price of onions or the shortage of carrots others will have very little to celebrate this Harvest time and no alternative source to fall back on.
So …. Yes, give thanks for the signs of fruitfulness we see in the apple trees, the hawthorns, the rowans and the horse chestnuts. But remember, particularly, this harvest time, our brothers and sisters around the world whose harvest has failed, and whose need will be urgent.
May God’s Blessings be shared
The November message from Alison
Over the next few months you will all - at least all who would like to - get a chance to meet the newest member of the Termie household. His name is Isaac and he is a 4lb ball of energy and fun…oh yes he is also a dog! A cocker spaniel puppy which Ken and I are fostering for the next year as puppy socialiser volunteers for the Hearing Dogs Charity. When we began to make enquiries back in July I thought that really we were doing this for Ken, who has always loved dogs and as he settled into semi-retirement was in danger of becoming somewhat isolated!! What I have discovered in just the few short days since Isaac arrived is that he is a gift to me as well! I haven’t laughed as much - full out loud laughter - for a long time, and watching the pure pleasure of play that he gets from a paper bag or MY SOCK! with or without added toes, is a reminder of the importance of rest and relaxation in a day. It is early days and those of you who have lived through the challenges of puppy days may well be shaking your heads - as I do too - but it is hoped that between us Ken and I will be able to complete his training and have the enjoyment of introducing him to lots of church socialising opportunities in schools and luncheon clubs, in care homes and church services. And he will also learn (as he is doing right now) to settle quietly at my feet while I tap away on my computer in all the normal busyness of church administration and service creation. Every blessing Alison
The December message from Annette
I am going to share a few clichés, and sayings with you.
By early November the shops were already advertising the number of “sleeps before Christmas”; playing music suggesting that “It’s Christmas!”; wishing that “it could be Christmas every day!” And yet there is, quite predictably, very little in sight that actually suggests “Christ-mas.” As usual, hardly any of the cards show anything to do with the Nativity of Jesus.
I have often thought that I would like to make a car sticker that plays on the words “a dog is for life, not just for Christmas” – letting people know that “Jesus is for life, not just for Christmas!” It seems that someone else had that idea, as I recently saw someone with a T-shirt which said exactly that.
So – might I actually “wish it could be Christmas, every day!”? I certainly long for the effect of Christmas to impact every day.
One thing I have noticed, is that I have become quite nostalgic; with memories of Christmas celebrations past; particular foods and decorations that remind me of times shared with loved ones, right through from my earliest memories. Many of those memories connecting to traditions:- as a child, the same Advent Calendar coming out year after year; family gatherings with Brian’s mum on Christmas Day; at my parents’ house on Boxing Day. As time moves on, and families grow up and move away these traditions change, and sometimes even come to their conclusion – hence the nostalgic feelings when baking the same cakes and biscuits; and the wistful feelings about things that no longer happen!
However – the constant reality is that “Jesus is the reason for the season.” I would encourage you to share in whatever you can that prepares you to celebrate the coming of “Immanuel” – God with us; to remember afresh the “incarnation” – God being made human. One of my own traditions is listening to Handel’s Messiah – I used to go to this being performed by Halifax Choral Society early in Advent. This reminds me that celebrating Jesus’ birth is part of the cycle of His whole life, death and resurrection.
As Christmas approaches we will have lots of opportunities to sing Christmas Carols and to hear the story again through Bible readings. Sending Christmas cards is the perfect chance to share something of our faith, by purposefully choosing ones that express the true meaning. Perhaps you could talk with family and friends about your traditions, past and present, as this could open up conversations which enable you to talk about why “Jesus is the reason for the season.”
Brian and I wish you every blessing for Christmas and the New Year.