We live in interesting times

An ancient Chinese curse is reported to be, “May you live in interesting times”. Well, there can be no doubt that we live in interesting times! There is division in our country unlike anything since, at least, the miners’ strikes in the 1980s. We see turmoil overseas as well, in Yemen, Congo, Libya and Iraq. The recent Turkish invasion has turned attention back to Syria and the civilian suffering there. (An ironic positive consequence is the long overdue US recognition of the Armenian genocide by the Turks a century ago, which was the model for Hitler for the Jewish holocaust. But I digress.) These nations are being ripped apart by disunity, with a loss of respect for government, and a loss of responsibility by government. Such political turmoil is described in the Bible as “The sun shall be turned to darkness and the moon to blood, before the coming of the great and glorious day of the Lord” (Acts 2:20). It is an image of shadow, darkness and conflict. Our country is not as disunited as those in civil war, but nonetheless we face great political and civil challenges. How should we, in our country and in our villages, respond to the coming days?

The answer, I believe, is as people of goodwill should always respond. In times of disagreement it is necessary to see the best of your opponent, and not the worst. It is a time, in particular, for kindliness and respect. It is a time to moderate speech and action, whilst holding fast to the principles in which we believe. We need to recognise that the loss of social cohesion is worse than any election result or any Brexit outcome. As a Christian, I see the attitude we need in the face of Christ, who “took the nature of a servant…and humbled himself” (Philippians 2:7-8). Jesus humbled himself so much that he came down from heaven to be our saviour (the Christmas story). And whether we believe this or not, the example is surely challenging. We need our politicians to serve us, not use us. And we need to serve others in our community, not just be self-seeking. In this way we begin to rebuild trust and that ultimate communal objective, love.

And so, may we, in our village communities, continue to do all we can to build up the values of service and love in our midst.

John Chitham, Rector

Jesus will return!

Dear Friends,

Will Brexit ever happen? Will the day dawn when we leave the EU? Or will there be some kind of half-way house, or even that we remain in the EU? At the time of writing, we have no idea. There may be an election, a referendum, a deal, no deal or a delay. We are left waiting, watching the events unfold before us.

In a way it reminds me of one of the great Christian beliefs, the return of Jesus. Christians have been waiting for his return, which he promised, ever since he first left us when he ascended into heaven. When will it be? We do not know. (Anyone who says they do are disregarding what he himself said, which is that he will come “like a thief in the night” and that only the Father knows the time.) Do we know how he will return? In this we know a little more: it will be in glory. Do we know the effect of his return? Here we know much more, and much more than the effects of Brexit. His return will herald final judgment: all that is evil will be destroyed, and all that is good magnified. This is a belief that brings great hope. We still need to work for justice in the world but ultimately God will have the last word. We still need to work for the restoration of creation but ultimately God will restore it. We still need to bring the message of the good news of Jesus but in the end every eye will see him.

The return of Jesus is marked by the season of Advent in the Christian calendar. This begins on the first Sunday of December and is marked in the benefice by a beautiful Advent carol service, one of my favourite services of the year. The rest of Advent is often overtaken by the services for Christmas, but we also get a flavour of it in the Remembrance service and in the Service of Memories for those who are bereaved, this year taking place in St Mary’s on Saturday 2nd November at 3pm.

These two services happen around All Saints; and All Saints time includes Halloween. Which brings us back to the advertised date for Brexit. Will it happen then? Who knows! What I do know is that one day Jesus will return. I may not know the date, but I do have his promise. And that is the most trustworthy promise I know.

John Chitham, Rector

What's the point? Where am I going? Is this it?

Dear Friends,

As I am writing, the summer is still upon us, but I am already beginning to think about the autumn. It is always a busy time for everyone: school is back and the holidays are over. It is just as busy in church life: we will be celebrating harvest, remembering those who died for their country and beginning to prepare for Christmas. The days of garden parties, barbecues and cream teas are drawing to an end and the nights will be drawing in.

However, this autumn we are preparing for something else as well: a major Alpha course for anyone in our area. Some of you may have heard of the Alpha course, no doubt for others it is an unknown quantity. The purpose is to be an introduction to the Christian faith. We will be holding it over 12 weeks, for children, youth and adults (and therefore families) on Sunday afternoons at 4.30 pm for 12 weeks beginning on 29 September in Standon and Puckeridge Community Centre. An important part of the course is the time to discuss: to agree, disagree, put your point of view, or simply eat the cake! Each Sunday will begin with afternoon tea and I am delighted to say I have already found that our churches are famous for their cakes! This will be free for anyone who would like to come.

Why should anyone wish to know more about the Christian faith? I have discovered in recent years that there has been an increasing desire to be spiritual; not to be bound by rules and dogma but explore what it means to be spiritual. As human beings we all have a spiritual side that needs to be developed, just as we have physical and mental sides. Without it we feel incomplete somehow. It might or might not include a belief in God, but there is a need to understand that not everything is understood by what we see touch, see, smell or taste.

The Christian faith is one great way to do this (I would say the greatest!). Of course, Christianity does have rules (e.g. the 10 Commandments) but rather than rules at its heart is a relationship with God, whom we know as a God of love. When that relationship begins the rules simply become the house rules of any family, rather than a new kind of slavery. Jesus said he came to set us free! It is a way to a new life in the Spirit of God.

So if you are interested in any of this, please feel free to join us. Look for the publicity in our villages. Contact our administrator, Marion, using the info on the contact us page so that you are booked in.

In the meantime, enjoy the remainder of the summer.

John Chitham, Rector

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