As I write the seasons are beginning to turn. The leaves on the trees surround St Paul’s are staring to yellow, the morning temperature is starting to drop and all the signs are present to indicate that autumn is on its way. This is a moment for gratitude. A moment to offer lingering thanks for the summer sun and for the restoration that it has brought us through holidays and relaxation. This is also a moment to ponder what the new season will bring as we journey past the familiar milestones of harvest, remembrance and Christmas amongst others.
A new pattern of publication means that this edition of St Paul’s magazine spans the period from October to December. To help us anticipate what is to come I have selected verses from three hymns, that draw out some of the key themes we will encounter as we travel through the seasons of harvest, remembrance and Christmas. I also include some key dates and events that mark these moments which you may wish to keep free in order to join me.
We begin with harvest. St Paul’s harvest festival weekend is spread over the 5th and 6th of October. On Sunday morning at 10.00am we look forward to welcoming Bishop Ann, Bishop of Aston to preach and celebrate at our harvest Eucharist. In the evening at 6.30pm there will be one of our occasional services of Choral Evensong. Alongside these, there will be additional collections of food and toiletries from local people and local schools to support the efforts of the Black Country Foodbank. The regular generosity of so many people, young and old, to support the vulnerable within our community is always very touching.
Think of a world without any flowers,
think of a world without any trees, think of a sky without any sunshine, think of the air without any breeze.
We thank you, Lord, for flowers and trees and sunshine,
we thank you, Lord, and praise your holy name. (Doreen Newport 1969 Stainer and Bell Ltd)
In November we encounter a moment of remembrance. Alongside the work of the Royal British Legion we at St Paul’s will pause in silence to remember and reflect upon the sacrifice and ongoing impact of conflict and war across our world. Last year for the first time there was a special act of remembrance at the “shell” which has recently been installed at Shell Corner. Despite the rain, this was a very moving and poignant community event. On Friday 8th November at 7.00pm this act of remembrance will be repeated so do please join us if you can. Alternatively, on Sunday 10th November at 10.00am there will be an act of remembrance within our morning service and the laying of a wreath at the war memorials that can be found within the church.
Lead us, Father, into freedom,
from despair your world release;
that, redeemed from war and hatred,
all may come and go in peace.
Show us how through care and goodness fear will die and hope increase. (Fred Kaan 1968 Stainer and Bell Ltd)
During December there will be increasing activity and certainly within our young people, increasing excitement at the prospect of Christmas’ imminent arrival. At St Paul’s from early December there will be a succession of Carol Services, sometimes held on behalf of local community groups including Guides, Scouts and schools. These are always joyful occasions and it is lovely to be able to exchange early Christmas greetings. However, with bereavement Christmas can present a real challenge. It was for this reason that a number of years ago St Paul’s chose to have a tree of remembrance in church. This tree is a place where family and friends can place a star with the name of their loved one recorded on it, as a way of marking their absence, whilst still celebrating the love of God that we find in the birth of Jesus Christ. Our service of Nine Lessons and Carols takes place on Sunday 22nd December at 6.30pm.
Joy to the world! The Lord is come;
let earth receive her King;
let ev’ry heart prepare him room,
and heav’n and nature sing,
and heav’n and nature sing,
and heav’n and heav’n and nature sing. (Isaac Watts 1674-1748)
All of these moments and events are woven into our year and they come with opportunities for us to give and receive; and to be gracious and generous in our living.
Words used at the beginning of a marriage service are words that we could usefully carry during the coming months, “God is love, and those who live in love live in God and God lives in them” (1 John 4.16). So if we remember nothing else, let us at least remember to live in love with one another that we and our community may be blessed.
With every blessing,
Revd. Mike Sermon