Pastoral Letter - 10th December 2021
My Dear Friends,
One of the great joys of parish ministry is seeing people coming alive in their Christian faith. One of the great privileges of priesthood is to be able to encourage people to become more involved in the worship and witness of the Church. In the three parishes in which I have served: St Mary’s Eastbourne, St John’s Upper St Leonards and St Mary’s Twickenham, I have had the extraordinary opportunity of working with some inspiring and committed Christians and I give thanks for them all. Some celebrate their faith in quiet, almost invisible ways; others in more administrative tasks; many choose to express their faith in practical ways; yet others by taking part in worship; there are those who show their commitment to Christ beyond the life of the institutional Church in the everyday life of the so called "secular world", as though there is any division, but whatever the way, the Holy Spirit uses all who offer themselves to His influence, wonderfully and creatively.
We are reminded so many times throughout the scriptures that we are a pilgrim people, constantly on the move. One of the less enjoyable aspects of parish priesthood is saying farewell to people when they move on from being members of a congregation where they are valued and loved. Having spoken with a few people over recent months, I am aware that the experience of lockdown has caused many to question what they are doing in life, which direction they should take and whether they should make any changes. Regrettably, for us, this includes saying farewell to a few members of the congregation who are moving away from the Twickenham area early in the new year. Kelly Burley has served St Mary’s so well as one of our Governors at the school, we will miss her greatly. Her fabulous husband Oli, who has sometimes led our prayers of intercession with so much sensitivity and care, and their amazing children, Jennifer and William who you may recall from Zoom services singing "It’s a wonderful world" along with Louis Armstrong and teaching us all their version of the Lord’s Prayer: "And lead us not to TERMINATION, but deliver us from evil!" They are surely amongst the most enthusiastic and appreciative of our community! We love them and will miss them.
As many of you may also have heard me say last weekend, we are also losing Katherine Cox and so for this, one of my final Pastoral Letters, I would like to share with you what I said of her last Sunday, as we wish her well for her move to Devonshire.
With blessings and best wishes
Katherine Victoria Cox, child of Devon, child of God, psychotherapist, Doctor of Philosophy, Dowager Church Warden, Vulnerable Adults Champion, sometime organiser of the Summer Fayre, sometime organiser of the Christmas Fayre, Collective Worship Superstar at the School, Trustee of the School, St Mary’s Young People`s Group advocate, cat lover, Vegan, human equivalent of strong black coffee, enthusiast par excellence....we at St Mary’s owe you big time for all that you have contributed to the life of our church over the past 11 and a half years.
I am immensely grateful to the previous Vicar of a certain local parish, for not only failing to reply to your initial call when you ‘phoned to ask if they would conduct the Funeral of your father, Bob, but failed to ‘phone you back the second time too, hence your scraping the bottom of the ecclesiastical barrel and asking if the service could take place here at St Mary’s instead. I can still recall the energy and love which you injected into your tribute to that remarkable man, your father, and I am so pleased that, as a result of such a sad period in your life, new things grew as you found a home with us at St Mary’s.
Here, initially I think it’s fair to say, you came for refuge, to deal with the pain of losing your father and to deal with other issues in your life at the time. Then, as healing gradually happened and rehabilitation eventually resulted, you started to get involved, and how involved you got: investing far more than one hundred per cent of yourself in all you engaged in and undertook to do. We all vividly recall your manic, caffeine-charged Sunday morning appearances on Zoom and your presentations on the scriptures here in church at our 3rd Sunday Eucharists. You have mesmerised children of all ages with your memorable Christmas stories at the Crib Services; you have shown compassion and discernment in some complicated pastoral encounters; you have shown resilience and positivity in the face of challenges and setbacks; you have radiated depth of character and depth of spirituality when others have approached you in distress and you have dedicated yourself unconditionally to the nurturing of children and young people at our church and at our school in their encounter with the living God. I have heard from several parents of how grateful they will lastingly be to you for showing the exciting and attractive face of Christianity to their children, many of whom, they tell me, may well have rejected the Church but for the way in which you have presented and projected, in such a compelling way, what living in Christ is all about.
You, with many others I have been blessed with at St Mary’s to have as members of the congregation, have been a key component in the deepening and the enlivening of this community over the last few years and if you yourself have been blessed by as much as one per cent of the blessings you have helped bestow upon others, then the economy of grace is doing its work.
There is an established tradition in this parish, of Dowager Church Wardens having a home in Devonshire, three of your predecessors in just my time at St Mary’s. We hope, we pray, that there you will find sanctuary for your soul, stimulation for your mind, challenges which play to your strengths, opportunities for making a creative difference, new things to get enthusiastic about, close friends as yet unmet, scope for your considerable skills and gifts and a church community which will cherish and value, encourage and nurture you.
I have wondered what gift we could possibly give to someone who has been an extraordinary gift to us. Flowers would last but a week, wine or whisky probably considerably less time! So what we will be giving you instead is an olive tree, something to either plant in the soil of Devonshire as you put down roots in your new home, or something to keep in a pot, to keep open your options of returning to Twickenham!
An olive tree for various reasons: It was in the scented hush of olive groves that Our Lord Jesus Christ used to go to pray, and you, I know, pray. An olive branch has long been the symbol of peace and you are indeed a peacemaker. Olive oil is used for cooking and I know that hospitality is a really important part of your discipleship. Olive oil is used by the Church to anoint: - to prepare people for Baptism and open their souls to the influence of the Holy Spirit with the Oil of the Catechumenate. - to anoint the sick with the Oil of Healing, bestowing Christ’s reassurance and strength. - to consecrate and commission lives in Christ’s service with the Oil of Chrism. So, may this olive tree inspire your prayers, your peacemaking, your healing, listening ministry. Thank you for being part of the unfolding story of St Mary’s and for investing so much of yourself in our life together. May God bless you, guide you and use you gloriously as you go forward into His future for you.
WELCOME to our worship at St Mary’s on the Third Sunday of ADVENT. As we worship at both the 9.30am Eucharist in church and the 5pm Zoom service online, we shall be reflecting on the Gospel passage, which this week is Luke Chapter 3 verses 7-18.
This Sunday’s Collect:
O Lord Jesus Christ, Who at your first coming sent your messenger John the Baptist To prepare your way before you: Grant that the ministers and stewards of your mysteries May likewise so prepare and make ready your way By turning the hearts of the disobedient To the wisdom of the just That, at your second coming to judge the world, We may be found an acceptable people in your sight. For you live and reign with the Father and the Holy Spirit One God now and for ever.
AMEN. You can find the names of those we shall be remembering in our prayers by following this link to our website "Services" page https://www.stmarytwick.org.uk/services and clicking on the button for 'Our Current Intercessions List'.