Ice skating, Jazz Musicians, Singing workshops, Christingles, it's all happening here....
I am overwhelmed by just how much is going on in these villages, and how much effort people put into making community. As a minister, and particularly as a 'Parish Priest' I am a great believer in community, and feel that bringing folk together is part of our calling as the Church, in an effort to stem the 'dis-integration' that makes up our western society. In these villages, though, I find myself swept along with the tide of those who are already working hard to keep people together, to build up friendships and to offer to our communities reasons to meet, to share, to be together.;
Of course, in my role as Vicar, I also have the calling to proclaim the deeper community that comes from being a part of the body of Christ, the binding together that comes with faith in Jesus, in whom all things hold together - so I believe part of my role is to be at these events that celebrate and that encourage community and also to offer and invite folk to be a part of this body which is the Church. It involves a careful balance between affirming all that is going on and speaking also the language of faith, of fellowship and of redemption. A task I rarely feel up to, but rely entirely on grace to undertake.
But that, in some ways, is a diversion from telling you all what an amazing weekend I have had! The jazz singer, mentioned in the first paragraph, was (and is) Cleveland Watkiss, talented, funny, friendly, generous and all round brilliant. Cleveland came to one of the Churches I minister to this last Saturday, firstly to lead a fun but slightly demanding (in terms of being willing to be embarassed) singing workshop, then to stun us all with his Vocal Aerobatics and exceptional Jazz Trio CWT in concert in the evening. I loved every minute of both the workshop and the concert and was bowled over by the fact that a small village of about 400 residents could host an international Jazz sensation, and make such a good job of supporting and enjoying such an event. It was also the first event I had actually been a part of at Stockland Church so it was a fun introduction to the life of that Church.
On Sunday I was dreading the run between three Churches, on a morning where the roads were frozen. These are tricky lanes, one track, with high hedges and a fair amount of grass growing in the middle - they are not major highways! Between the 8am and 9.30am services I took things very easy and only encountered a couple of dodgy patches - the Ice Skating I mentioned earlier was in my car! Again, between the 9.30am and the 11am service there was some exciting driving, and at one point I thought the ice was going to stop me actually getting uphill at one point and I might be missing my later service. As it was I got to everything relatively on time, had a very good Sunday morning and didn't damage either myself or the car. The services themselves ranged from the very traditional 'Prayer Book 1662' via the usual 'Order 1' to the joyful chaos of a Christingle. A very good morning. I think we are going to have to work on service timings, though, getting from a 9.30am service to an 11am is something of a disaster.
So a good weekend, today spent trying to put together services for Christmas time, more Christingles, 9 Lessons and Carols, fewer lessons and carols etc etc which has almost caused mental meltdown - but the admin has to be done! I went out for a pint of well deserved Ale this evening and met some folk at the local pub who I enjoyed chatting to, so that made up for the dreary day.