The Revd Writes…
A good few years back, amidst the hustle and bustle of the Winchester Christmas Market, I found myself having a conversation with a woman who spontaneously declared, “I love Christmas! It is the most important Christian festival.” “Ah, no”, I interjected. “The most important Christian festival is Easter.” “No”, she said, “It’s Christmas.” “I’m a vicar,” I explained, “I know about these things.” “Well, I don’t care who you are or what you do, I am telling you Christmas is the most important Christian festival because it brings more people together.” She wasn’t wrong. I have reflected on that conversation long and hard subsequently.
Shared experience brings people together, though our shared experience of the ‘most important Christian festival’ this year will be like no other. The pandemic begs the question for the whole human family, ‘Who will you spend this Christmas with?’ More importantly perhaps, who will it be safe to share this Christian festival with? Normally by mid-November, most families have a plan in place. But not in 2020.
Shopping for presents, another common experience, has been dampened. Online shopping, no matter how dressed-up a website, is devoid of the face-to-face interaction we as human beings mostly enjoy and need for our own sense of wellbeing. Any seasonal activity this year will be hastily put together in an attempt to try to make Christmas ‘happen’, not least for children. Fundraising events for good causes, so crucial for so many charities, have been muted, with significant effects on next year’s budgets. This year Christmas is hard. Yet all is not doom and gloom. Facing adversity together has binding qualities as those who survived the Second World War knew all too well. Amidst pandemic, social cohesion across all communities has thrived. The battle to stave off isolation means that we now know our neighbours better than ever before. Generosity of heart has stretched across previously unknown thresholds. Kindness and thoughtfulness are now but a door or two away. Who are you spending Christmas with? More likely than not this year, for many people, it will be spent with those who live on the same street.
And what will you give? And here a little plea. Like many charitable institutions, the Diocese of Winchester finds itself in a difficult place and is facing cuts of £2 million. The inability of our local churches to fundraise and hire out buildings has left a significant hole in church finances. Many people across the Dever Valley benefit from the pastoral ministry of our parish priests every day. If you can help and would like to help by donating a regular £5 a month to support this work, please go to the ‘Donate’ page on our website at https://www.achurchnearyou.com/church/18357/page/56736/view/
More than ever, we are together this Christmas. Even if it feels we are far apart.
God Bless Revd Mark Bailey