Rector's February 2014 Letter

Candlemas

February this year starts with a festival you may not have heard of – Candlemas. In the middle ages it became the time when the stock of candles for the new year were brought out and blessed, and we still continue that tradition in our Candlemas service today. The readings tell the Biblical story of the baby Jesus being ‘presented’ in the temple in accordance with the Old Testament law that said that all first-born children had to be symbolically ‘bought back’ from God with a small sacrifice. When Mary and Joseph took Jesus to Jerusalem for this ceremony, two very elderly and devout people, Simeon and Anna, were moved to prophesy over the baby, recognizing and proclaiming him as the promised Messiah, the Hope of the world.

Advent Sunday at the end of November or beginning of December marks the beginning of that hope, the first light of Christmas, as a single candle is carried into church from which others are lit as the light spreads through the church. And then Candlemas, at the end of January or beginning of February, marks the close of the Christmas and Epiphany season and the opening of the next chapter of the great story – but not with the blowing out of the candles – that would be terrible symbolism! Instead, a candle or candles is carried back down the aisle from the sanctuary and out of the church. The ‘light shining in the darkness’ which we hear about at Christmas is set loose in the world.

The world, after all, not just the church, is where God is at work. Our previous Archbishop of Canterbury, Rowan Williams, once described the mission of the church as ‘trying to see what God is doing and then joining in’. Most of the church’s many mistakes over the centuries have been when people became too convinced that they alone knew what God was doing, and failed to look out for the ‘wild’ action of the Holy Spirit moving ceaselessly through the world in a long and continuing act of creation, inspiring and touching and calling those who are open and listening for God’s voice.

This year, our group of churches has been making what could be described as a ‘New Year’s Resolution’ to think afresh and re-imagine what God might be calling us, and the people of these villages, to do to play our part in the action of God’s Spirit in the world as well as in our churches. If Jesus can be said to have had a mission statement, it was some words from the Prophet Isaiah, which he read these words in the synagogue in his home town – "The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, because he has anointed me to bring good news to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim release to the captives and recovery of sight to the blind, to let the oppressed go free, to proclaim the year of the Lord's favour."

We have started the process with a very well attended meeting in January (despite a miserable wet night) to think again about how we can work together more, and try to lighten some of the administrative and practical burdens of running churches which can sometimes obscure their real and important purpose as places of prayer; reminders of God’s free presence in our villages; solid promises that there is more to life than what appears on the surface.

So perhaps this is a good time to remind everyone that our village churches belong to all of us; that they are always open for private prayer; that each has a board on which prayers can be pinned, either named or anonymously, and that those prayer requests (as well as being a prayer in themselves) will also be prayed by others at morning prayer meetings and informally. And we are also always happy to receive requests for prayers to be said at Sunday services. (Do check whether or not the person being prayed for is happy for their name to be used; and do let us know the outcome!)

So we go forward, carrying the light God has entrusted to each one of us.


Rector's Pages
Webpage icon Rector's February 2016 Letter
Webpage icon Associate Minister's January 2016 Letter
Webpage icon Rector's December 2015 Letter
Webpage icon Rector's November 2015 Letter
Webpage icon Associate Minister's November 2015 Letter
Webpage icon Rector's September 2015 Letter
Webpage icon Associate Minister's September 2015 Letter
Webpage icon Rector's August 2015 Letter
Webpage icon Rector's July 2015 Letter
Webpage icon Associate Minister's July 2015 Letter
Webpage icon Rector's June 2015 Letter
Webpage icon Rector's May 2015 Letter
Webpage icon Rector's April 2015 Letter
Webpage icon Associate Minister's April 2015 Letter
Webpage icon Rector's 2nd March 2015 Letter
Webpage icon Rector's March 2015 Letter
Webpage icon Rector's February 2015 Letter
Webpage icon Associate Minister's February 2015 Letter
Webpage icon Rector's January 2015 Letter
Webpage icon Rector's December 2014 Letter
Webpage icon Associate Minister's December 2014 Letter
Webpage icon Rector's November 2014 Letter
Webpage icon Rector's October 2014 Letter
Webpage icon Associate Minister's October 2014 Letter
Webpage icon Rector's August 2014 Letter