From the vicar

Monthly reflection

July 2022 Sunshine and flowers

I am writing this having just returned from what was technically a seaside holiday, though I neither paddled nor swum in the sea, nor built any sandcastles. But I did enjoy time with family, I did visit some places that have special memories, and I did have time to relax and simply to ‘be’.

We stepped straight out of the chalet where we stayed, onto a strip of sand dunes that is the most beautiful wildflower meadow I have seen for a long time, vibrant with colour and fragrance, and humming and twittering with insect and bird life. I spent several happy hours reconnecting with species unknown in Derbyshire but familiar from the sandy soils of my childhood home. Another rare treat was walking along the beach almost every morning, watching the sun come up over the sea. And, as we usually do whenever we visit Somerset, we went to Selworthy Church to visit the graves of many of Richard’s father’s family, buried in the churchyard. It has always been a lovely churchyard, but this year they have left the grass in the older part of the churchyard uncut, resulting in an absolutely haven of peace and beauty and birdsong; a mini taste of heaven amid the surrounding countryside.

As I reflected on what, for me, has made this recent holiday one of the best we have had, the word that came to mind was ‘connections.’ There was the obvious connecting with family whom we have not seen for a long time, but there was also the less obvious connecting with what matters to me at the deepest level of my being. I find that watching the sunrise, and feeling the quality of light just before and after dawn, which is unlike any other time of day, fills me with wonder at the sheer miracle of life and the goodness of God. And experiencing, if only in a small way, the richness and diversity of nature that has not been ‘managed’ by humanity, fills me with joy at the beauty and complexity of God’s world. But with sadness too at how little we have left undamaged.

So as I carry into my everyday life the blessings that I have gained from my week away, my prayer for us all is that we will all find whatever it is for us that enables us to connect with God and with God’s world, at the deepest level of ourselves. And that that sense of connectedness will strengthen our commitment to cherish one another and all that God has made.

If you would like to sign up to receive a daily reflection, or to receive the regular newsletters from churches and Christian groups across Hope Valley, please go to https://mailchi.mp/96d81b43cee5/sign-up-for-daily-reflection or https://mailchi.mp/cbb9a512a36e/hope-valley-christians-newsletter or email me on [email protected] and I can sign you up.


June 2022 Platinum Jubilee

As I write this, across our nation people are preparing to celebrate the Queen’s Platinum Jubilee; 70 years of the Queen’s reign. Yet, apart from an extra long bank holiday weekend, and a chance for lots of wonderful community events, what exactly are we celebrating?

I find it slightly odd to reflect that the majority of our nation’s population, like me, will be unable to remember a time before Queen Elizabeth’s accession. Official statements speak of the Queen’s ‘service to the nation,’ and in my experience such phrases are almost guaranteed to produce heated discussion sooner or later, as people bring different understandings of how the royal family contribute to, and receive from, our nation.

As an individual, I willingly offer total and unconditional obedience to God. As a Church of England minister, I have also vowed an oath of allegiance to the Queen and her successors, as head of the Church of England. However, the allegiance I give to the Queen is very different from my obedience to God. I do not consider the Queen or the royal family to be without fault, nor do I consider any human being to be worthy of my worship. But my oath of allegiance does require my loyalty. For me, that is about an awareness of - and a patience with - the reality that positions of great authority and responsibility are held by flawed human beings. I seek to balance the reality of the Queen and her successors as people, subject to the same influences as all of us, with loyalty to the position they hold. I believe this balancing of reality with loyalty towards something that may be more hoped for than seen, is characteristic of Christianity itself. Easter calls Christians to constantly to balance the reality of the world they see around them, with an abiding belief in redemption and resurrection.

People close to the Queen speak of her faithfulness, and of how she is supported by her Christian faith. Unlike most of us, the Queen has no choice about the faith she expresses publicly, but I wonder if for her too, there is something about reality and loyalty? Maybe she too has to balance the reality of her own views about our nation, with the requirement to be a loyal figurehead, both at home and abroad? And to do so for a life time.

So my prayer for us all this month is that whether we are an ardent royalist, or an ardent republican, we will use the Queen’s Jubilee as an opportunity to reflect on what faithfulness, and loyalty, and allegiance, mean for us; to reflect on where we are prepared to give our hearts and our minds.

If you would like to sign up to receive a daily reflection, or to receive the regular newsletters from churches and Christian groups across Hope Valley, please go to https://mailchi.mp/96d81b43cee5/sign-up-for-daily-reflection   or https://mailchi.mp/cbb9a512a36e/hope-valley-christians-newsletter   or email me on [email protected] and I can sign you up.


May 2022 Belonging to God

In April I celebrated Easter, a Christian festival so well known that virtually everyone, whatever their faith or none, knows it has something to do with Christians. On May 26 I will celebrate Ascension Day, a Christian festival so obscure that most non-churchgoers have never even heard of it and often only a few churchgoers come along to the Ascension Day services, which are always on a Thursday. (Always on the 40th day from Easter Sunday, in case you are wondering.)

As I reflect on the days that are important in my calendar, I find myself reflecting on the occasions that we remember, and how we mark them. After two years of lockdowns and various restrictions, one of my delights in recent months has been people coming forward to ask about weddings and baptisms in church. I always ask people why they want to mark these important occasions by coming to church, and I always love listening to the answers. Many people say things like, ‘It’s tradition,’ or ‘it just seems the right thing to do.’ When we explore together what that means for them, there is often something there about faith; not necessarily a church-going faith, but a belief in God as something beyond ourselves, beyond humanity, beyond what we can see and touch, and a sense that to make promises and commitments before God is a significant and important thing to do.

I believe that historically the Church of England has not been very good at recognising or understanding the faith of people who do not go to church. Some researchers have suggested that people see themselves as ‘belonging to God,’ in several different ways: through ‘activity,’ that is through regular church-going; through ‘events,’ that is through marking significant events and dates, such as weddings, Christmas, and so on; through ‘place,’ that is through sensing God in special places, maybe the church building or the churchyard, maybe particular places in the natural world; or through ‘people,’ that is through being part of a wider ‘church’ community, supporting things like coffee mornings or fetes that the church may put on. Of course, our traditional church services really only tend to support the faith of those who fall into the first group, those who belong through ‘activity.’

If you know that you have faith, but you do not find church services particularly helpful or meaningful, I’d love to hear from you about how ‘church’ could be better at helping you celebrate your faith, or better at supporting you. And my prayer for us all is that we would always resist the temptation to want others to be like us, and would grow better each day at cherishing the differences we find.

If you would like to sign up to receive the regular newsletters from churches and Christian groups across Hope Valley, please go to
https://mailchi.mp/cbb9a512a36e/hope-valley-christians-newsletter
or email me on [email protected] and I can sign you up.