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St. David’s Church,  Broom Leys

“Out of the believer’s heart shall flow streams of living water”

‘Growing in Christ, living in faith’

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Message for December 2019/January 2020


CHURCHWARDEN’S LETTER


When you read this letter I will probably be on my ‘summer holidays’. I really didn’t think it through when I changed careers again, as now my quiet time is in the winter!


I went from being an Engineering Manager with Pepsico to work on my own as a gardener. My thoughts were thus: to find a job closer to home that gave me the time and flexibility to allow me to manage home and work life. It was scary, going from a well-paid stable job into the unknown.


I took the plunge, achieved a RHS qualification in horticulture, aimed to work four days a week, earn enough money to keep my family life going and — most importantly — be around for my sons. It was going to be a job, but as my fourth year comes to an end, it is much more than I envisaged. I work six days a week, mostly due to the weather and the amount of work I have. It does not earn me lots of money, but I have learnt to get by and cut my cloth to suit. I am fortunate to be able to supplement my income from money I had saved so that I could leave my ‘real’ job.


My HR manager predicted that I would not get much done, as I was too kind and would spend more time chatting with people along with the work in the gardens. She was right. But also, when I listened to Revd Stuart Burns as he talked about Jesus not having to go to Jericho but choosing to go, it struck me that although it is my job now, it has brought me into situations where I have been able to help others: to be in the right place at the right time, as I didn’t have to do it, but chose to help.


There are many examples as I reflect back, but I will tell you of a recent one. I was asked by a couple to transform their blank canvas of a plain garden into something that they could use when they came home from work to relax in. This has been my biggest project in gardening so far. We drew up the plans and I got to work. Then things started to go wrong for the lady: she was diagnosed with a serious illness, but she wanted me to carry on with the work. As time passed and the illness meant she had to have surgery and be off work for at least six months, what was a business project became a mission for me: to get the work done so that she had a beautiful space to relax in and to recover in. I worked extra hours at my own expense and drafted in the help of my friend and even my sons to get this done.


She is thankfully on the road to recovery and is always in my prayers. What made it all worth while was when she said to me that she was always going to be grateful for what I had done. Having a beautiful garden gave her the space and beauty to aid her recovery and to help her feel that life was worth getting better for.


I was looking at Bible readings recently to use at the PCC meeting, and was directed to this from 1Peter 4:10:


Each of you should use whatever gift you have received to serve others, as faithful stewards of God’s grace in its various forms.


I think this fits in with my life now and probably always has done. It is also what we need to sustain us through the interregnum. We all have gifts or talents and should use these to help and support others.


Shortly before Andy surprised us by announcing his retirement, I was on the verge of resigning as a Churchwarden. This was due to many factors related to my family life, being overstretched at work due to the weather mostly, being unwell and reaching a point where I think I hit a brick wall. Carrying out the Churchwarden role as well was meaning I was at the limit of what I could handle. However, something in my head was telling me not to give up  — and when Andy dropped out his news, I knew that I was needed in this role, at least until we get a new Vicar.


As I was thinking about this letter and the extra pressure as churchwarden now that Andy has gone, out of nowhere the following section of a hymn came into my head and I was singing the words:


And I will trust in you alone,
And I will trust in you alone
For your endless mercies will follow me
Your goodness will lead me home.


The pressure suddenly did not seem as onerous, and I felt a strange wash of emotion come over me.


It is now the season of Advent, and I looked up the meaning in the dictionary. It defines advent as ‘the arrival of a notable person or event.’ So we are now in many ways in advent, as the country goes to yet another election and we are beginning our search for our new incumbent.


However, we should first think about the Advent we associate with this time of the year and what it means. In a time of increasing commercialisation of Christmas (which starts now in September) it is better to go back to the real meaning of Advent for us. Advent is a season of expectation and preparation as the Church prepares to celebrate the coming (adventus) of Christ in his incarnation, and also looks ahead to his final advent as judge at the end of time.


Now, steeped in tradition, we have the Advent wreath which was imported to Britain from Northern Europe in the 19th century and helps us prepare each week of the four weeks up to the happy day of celebration. We also have the Moravian custom of the Christingle that has become a tradition since the late 20th century in Britain with the encouragement of the Children’s Society. It is wonderful that at this service the church is always full.


As we look to the arrival of a notable person, as the dictionary says, Advent is the build-up to the celebration of the birth of Jesus —  so let us prepare ourselves in expectation of the good news to come.


Christmas is a time of celebration and we should share the joy with those we are close to and all those we love. There is no better sight than the happy, smiling faces of children at Christmas and the peace you see in people’s faces when they come to church to take part in our services.


Spare a thought for those who may be lonely or may not have the love of others around them at this time of year. Sometimes just a smile and a hello that acknowledges the person as a human being is just the start of a path you don’t have to take, but may choose to follow in making the loneliness less of a burden. We are reminded at the start of November with Operation Christmas Child that the world is a very unfair place, but with effort we can bring joy to those who have less than we.


A generous person will prosper; whoever refreshes others will be refreshed.
Proverbs 11:25


On behalf of the Churchwarden team, I wish you a very happy and peaceful Christmas and a New Year filled with optimism for a more stable and peaceful world  — and in our own little corner, for the arrival of our new vicar.


Paul Bingley