Holidays

Dear Friends,

It that time of year when things tend to get relaxed, the days are long, the weather warm and there is time for socialising, garden parties, fairs and festivals. It is the time of the “lazy, hazy days of summer”, as the song puts it. It is a time, shortly, of school holidays and plans for summer holidays.

It was not always so. In our villages this was often the busiest time of year. The harvest was being brought in and all the village helped. Little Munden school has just celebrated its 200th year, a remarkable length of time. It was founded by the vicar at that time in the church and only later moved to the buildings we have today. Yet looking through the history of the first century of the school there is a constant difficulty for education in the summer term: the children were called upon to help with the harvest. Their education had to take second place to the need to provide food. The holiday came when the harvest was completed. Indeed, our present long school summer holiday was set to because of the need to work the land at that time. This link to the land is being rediscovered today, but in different ways. We know that the food produced needs to be done responsibly without damaging the environment, and we are increasingly aware of the need for the land to be “rested” to recover fertility.

As human beings, we too need our times of rest and relaxation. The Bible calls it the “Sabbath” and, in terms of Sunday being a day of rest for the whole country, very sadly it has been lost. However, there is a need for us all to have a sabbath mindset. We cannot just go on working all hours and all days. The fourth commandment says, “Remember the Sabbath day by keeping it holy”. (We get our word “holiday” from “holy day”.) If we cannot, for various reasons, always avoid work on a Sunday, we should at least aim to keep the spirit of the law, and schedule rest and downtime, to have “holy-days”. This is God’s plan for his whole creation. It is even better if, during these holy-days, we find time to reflect on him and his glory in nature all around us. The long days of summer are perfect for seeing him in the flash of a kingfisher, the bounding of a hare or the waves in a field of grain. I pray that we may all have some holy-days this summer.

John Chitham, Rector

Examination Season

Dear Friends,

At this time of year my heart always goes out to all those who are doing exams. I used to be a teacher (and teachers also suffer during, and after, exams) and saw close up how demanding and stressful examinations could be. The consolation that they would be over in due course and that a lovely, long, hot summer vacation loomed never seemed enough at the time. Nevertheless, we all know that they have to be done and even, some might just about admit, they could be useful for learning and the future. And, if we are talking about the examinations for those studying to become doctors or engineers, most of us would say that those examinations are not merely good but essential.

Examination season is a metaphor for life. Often, we wonder why we are going through trials and tribulations. We cannot see the point. And even when we can see the point, we would rather it wasn’t happening. No-one likes suffering and it is one of our duties as human beings to minimise sufferings. Many sufferings cannot be explained, let alone justified, and we weep in frustration when we see others suffer. And we may shout at God (or those nearest to us) and wonder what is going on.

Yet it is the Christian belief that this time of trial can be a preparation to make us ready for the life to come after death. The model is Jesus, who suffered willingly for others so that there can be new life. Just as the exam student finds it difficult to focus on the holidays in the midst of exams, so we often find it difficult to think about the life to come in the midst of suffering. Nevertheless, we can have hope because Jesus himself rose from the dead and shows that there is new life. The summer holidays will come in the end and by the time you read this the exams may well be over. The summer, with long days, warmth, BBQs, holidays and no more school: I cannot think of a better picture for the life to come in God.

The key to this new life is Jesus himself who offers the gift of new life. When I took up that offer myself, the trials and difficulties did not go away. But they were put in perspective and a new hope was born: the summer holidays are coming!

John Chitham, Rector

Settling in

Although we have only been here a short time it already seems like this is “home”. The common question is “how are you settling in?” and I have to say, as far as we are concerned, wonderfully. It is such a lovely place to be with such friendly people. It always helps to arrive in spring to wonderful weather (although, of course, we need more rain…), to see the blossom everywhere, hare in the fields, bluebells appearing in the woods and the Martins returning. One particular surprise is the sheer quantity of deer. I managed to count a herd of 150 Fallow deer on one occasion, as well as regular Muntjac.

Meanwhile people have been so welcoming. There is patience over procedures I take time to learn and many names to remember. There is an overwhelming kindliness and generosity in so many areas that it is difficult pick one out. At the same time there is a spiritual appetite which is stimulating and challenging. All in all, it is like a refreshment to the soul, and Basma and I are grateful to everyone and to God.

Of course, it is the “day job” that counts and I have already seen the consolation that a church funeral can bring in the countryside and the joy in preparing for a church wedding. However, the highlight in church life so far has been Easter. Maundy Thursday, Good Friday and Easter Sunday were all special in different ways. The Maundy Thursday service in Sacombe was enchanting with a large congregation, a full choir and going out in silence into the dusk just as Jesus and the disciples did long ago in Jerusalem as they went to the Garden of Gethsemane. Similarly, the two services for Good Friday were very moving. The service at Little Munden, with the dramatic rendition of the crucifixion, brought home to me yet again the horror and wonder of the crucifixion, of how Jesus was prepared to die for me personally. And then on Easter Sunday St. Mary’s Standon was packed as we sang about and read about the wonders of the resurrection. The Easter story is truly amazing and something that can bring hope to us all.

As we go on and get more established, I hope that I can meet more and more of you. The Vicarage door is always open. I hope that we can start courses soon for anyone interested in exploring the Christian faith. Please feel free to ask if you are interested. In the meantime, if you see me at the school gate or walking the dog, please feel free to say hello.

John Chitham, Rector

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