From the Vicarage June 2020
As I write this on the morning of Ascension Day, the day when we celebrate Christ’s glorious ascension into heaven, it is hard not to reflect on the bittersweet nature of this day, and of course this strange time in our lives. At the Dawn Service I have just led, alongside Isla in the porch of the vicarage, I quoted ‘A Sonnet for Ascension Day’ by the poet and writer Malcolm Guite…
We saw his light break through the cloud of glory
Whilst we were rooted still in time and place
As earth became a part of Heaven’s story
And heaven opened to his human face.
We saw him go and yet we were not parted
He took us with him to the heart of things
The heart that broke for all the broken-hearted
Is whole and Heaven-centred now, and sings,
Sings in the strength that rises out of weakness,
Sings through the clouds that veil him from our sight,
Whilst we ourselves become his clouds of witness
And sing the waning darkness into light,
His light in us, and ours in him concealed,
Which all creation waits to see revealed.
What Guite brings out so well in his writing, and which is why the sonnet resonates so well with me, is the bittersweet, paradoxical nature of Ascension Day, it is a day of joy but also sadness, of leaving but not leaving. There is on Ascension Day, a definite, undeniable absence as Christ leaves the disciples and us, and ascends into heaven; but at the same time there is also the enduring and eternal presence of Christ through the Holy Spirit. The disciples as they watched Jesus disappear would have felt a grief, no one who watches a loved one disappear cannot feel some pain and sadness, yet at the same time they were moved to celebration as they went to the Temple and praised God. Hence the bittersweet, paradoxical nature of the day. Leaving but not leaving.
We also as a church have a farewell to make, as Revd Ruth, Nick, Esme, Eden and Eti are moving to Wimborne for Nick to begin his curacy there and as Ruth explores a full time Chaplaincy at Bournemouth University and the Arts University Bournemouth. I personally feel a real sense of regret and sadness that we will not, at this time because of the current suspension of public worship, be able to say farewell to the Wells family in the way we would have liked. I am hoping there will be an opportunity later in the year to fully give thanks for Ruth’s ministry and the whole family’s contribution to the life of St Mary’s over the last three years. As with Christ’s Ascension, there will be an undeniable absence as Ruth moves on to the next stage of her ministry and I am sure you join with me in wishing her every blessing in her ongoing ministry. However, there is also the sense of leaving but not leaving, because what we give thanks for is the contribution Ruth has made to our worshipping life together and to the community of West Moors, and in that sense her ministry will have an enduring presence amongst us. Ruth has inspired us with her sermons and poetry over the last three years and has in particular taken a lead in our engagement with local families through Bells and Biscuits. Also though, Ruth has quietly in the background been doing some really important ministry with mothers and families in the village and I want to personally thank her for her dedication in reaching out to so many people over the last three years. Another of Ruth’s great qualities is that she makes us think, and that is something I think we have all valued and will remember from her time here. So please join with me in praying for the whole Wells family as they journey on and we look forward to welcoming them back in the near future.
It is always the nature of any curacy that it is a time limited and at some point, new horizons beckon. A year ago today, as the curate at Gillingham, Milton on Stour & Silton, I was interviewed and offered the living here as your new Incumbent. A lot has happened in that year! In the aftermath of a curate leaving a parish, the ongoing ministry has to be reflected on, in terms of capacity. It happened in Gillingham after I left, and the same will be true for us here as Ruth moves on. Some of things that I started in Gillingham have continued but some others have been necessarily been left to die. It is a natural part of curacy and also a very Gospel paradigm. The seed has to die before it can grow, there must be death before resurrection. The strange situation we find ourselves in at this time, also enables us to reflect on our ongoing ministry to West Moors, so it is a positive space we have been gifted with in these days to reflect, to challenge ourselves and to search for the deep core of where we feel our energies as a parish should be directed. I am still hoping we will have our parish away day in September where I would like us to metaphorically paint a picture. A picture of our individual journey to St Mary’s, who we are as a church and what we stand for. This time of reflection I think can really add another colour to the palette we use to paint this picture. As we explore our individual and corporate journeys, no doubt there will be moments of joy and sadness, things we wish to leave behind, and things we want to retain. This is good though, and the thought of exploring this together excites me, because I think we all, having lived through these days, have appreciated even more the love that unites us and makes us a church. Not the building but the love of God in Jesus Christ through which we are one body, one church.
Pray for each other, love one another and stay safe
In the love that unites us
AndyRevd Andy Muckle (vicar)