Wednesday, 26 June 2013

Whodunit!

On Sunday evening I enjoyed watching the latest Agatha Christie instalment, ‘Greenshaw’s Folly’ on the telly-box.  Perhaps it’s something to do with the fact that ever since I became Rev Green people have been asking ‘did you do it with the candle-stick in the library’!

It strikes me that the mystery of a Whodunit plot lingers a little longer in a book rather than on the screen.  That’s because it’s often one of the really famous actors in the cast line up who ends up as the murderer.  That was at least half true on Sunday evening with Julia Sawalha (of Lark Rise to Candleford fame) being in on the act.  The moment I saw her I thought she was too significant an actor just to be the housekeeper (oh what an exciting life I lead!).

In any walk of life our attention is often drawn to the so called ‘important’ people – the movers and shakers, the up-front and in the limelight sort – and that’s probably as it should be because every movement or organisation needs leadership and inspiration. However, no society could exist with just such a thin veneer of people.  The unsung folk who work hard behind the scenes are essential.

I thought that point was made rather beautifully in Westminster Abbey’s recent service commemorating the Coronation.  Sixty years ago that theatre in which the crowning took place was crowded out by earls and viscounts but today we are a much more egalitarian society so the Dean and Chapter devised a service in which the anointing oil was brought to the altar by a procession that included not only a High Court judge but also a Lollypop lady resplendent in her fluorescent yellow jacket – it seemed to make the Duke of Edinburgh smile but I hope it also made the rest of us think.  A society like ours is made the richer by the contribution of all its citizens.

This week at Amersham Free Church we have been giving thanks for our Time for God volunteer, Juliane – who is soon to leave us and return to Germany after ten splendid months of Christian service in our church and town.  Julian has been a joy to have around – her quiet faithfulness has been an inspiration to us all.  She has not taken the limelight yet her contribution has been so appreciated by so many groups that we are all threatening to steal her passport so she can stay a little longer with us!  Juliane you have been a great blessing to us all and you return to your home and family with our love and grateful thanks.

So, when you watch the next Whodunit my advice is to look out for that famous actor – it will probably be them.  And next time you are in church and are served with a cup of tea and a smile, or see someone putting up the tables or sweeping the floor, pause to thank that person for the contribution they offer to our life together.

With best wishes – and hopes for a dry Saturday for this weekend’s Church Garden Party!

Ian

<!--[if !supportLineBreakNewLine]-->
<!--[endif]-->

Wednesday, 19 June 2013

Cool Summer!


My Principal at Theological College used to tell us that if ever we were stumped for a text on Sunday – preach from the psalms.  Maybe, having seen this week’s Blog title, you are of the opinion that perhaps I too am stumped for a subject – so that very British theme of ‘weather’ is a handy one in a thin week! 

Well perhaps you are right.  But the truth is I was actually fascinated by the conference held at The Met Office HQ in Exeter yesterday as meteorologists gathered to debate the question we have been hearing for about seven years now:  ‘What’s happening to summer?!  Their findings, as we probably predicted, are not conclusive but they released a statement saying it might be something to do with Atlantic warming and cyclical trends. So there!  The good news (apparently) is that this particular cycle of disappointing summer weather might be out of the way in five to ten years time – no need, then, to rush out and buy the sun tan lotion.

In the diary I keep the first thing I put down is the weather – why do I feel the need to do that!  Perhaps I even judge the worth of day by the amount of brightness in it?

One of the Elders at Amersham Free Church sent me a great piece of writing recently which reminds us of a deeper truth – that of sensing God and being open to Love’s possibilities regardless of the weather or place.  It’s a piece by Margaret Silf from her book ‘Wayfaying’ and it goes like this:

I saw the sunrise this morning. But not because I was in ‘the right place’ and the right time. At six-thirty this morning I wasn’t in the room that faces east, but in a room facing north. I didn’t go to greet the sunrise, but the sunrise came to me. I became aware of a streak of warm light glowing among the branches of an oak tree in my neighbour’s garden. It was this glow of light that attracted me and drew me into the east-facing room to watch the miracle ‘live’.   This incident caused me to reflect on the many times in my life when I have not been in what I might have considered ‘the right place’, but how God has penetrated my being, indirectly perhaps, wherever I happened to be. It led me to think that perhaps every place is potentially ‘the right place’, and all that really matters is to be present to it at ‘the right time’. And discovering ‘the right time’ is easy. The right time is always the present moment.

And that, in turn, reminded me of the poem come prayer written by a Jew in a
Cologne concentration camp during WW2 – profoundly moving words I think:

I believe in the sun
even when it is not shining.
And I believe in love,
even when there's no one there.
And I believe in God,
even when he is silent.


So whatever the weather this weekend – may the clouds never obscure or dampen our sense of trust in God’s love, peace and goodness.

Best wishes,

 
Ian

Wednesday, 12 June 2013

Don't send that email!


Over recent weeks I’ve spoken with a number of friends who have been upset by emails sent to them in both haste and anger.  It’s easy done and perhaps we’ve all been guilty of such a crime!  We’ve written, or in this case typed, a message that has given vent to our immediate feelings and then pressed the ‘send’ button.  Like peeling a banana or squeezing out the toothpaste – there’s no way to put it back again, no computer has yet been developed with an ‘unsend’ button.

Now I wasn’t exactly the rebellious sort at college but I did have one falling out with the Principal.  He banned a group of us from holding a mid-day prayer meeting for South Africa during the headline grabbing days of apartheid.  In a blaze of righteous, maybe even self-righteous, indignation we wrote a letter of complaint (this being the time when computers were as big as rooms rather than phone sized tablets).  He called us in to see him and rather graciously said he would much rather we had come and talked with him face to face about the issue than receive our missive.

I now realise the wisdom of his counsel.  Letters, and come to that emails, only give half the side of an account, argument or story.  That’s even true of the epistles in the New Testament.  Nothing beats a face to face encounter when a more rounded discussion can be developed.

Don’t get me wrong I love emails – even after a twenty four hour residential at Woking returning home this afternoon to find forty emails waiting for a response!  This technology has made life so much easier and convenient. I suppose I regret the loss of pen and ink letter writing – but then I am something of a Luddite at heart!  The downside of this wonderful technology is a rushed email, written too quickly and gratuitously by an angry correspondent.

So may God grant us the wisdom to know when not to press that ‘send’ button.

With best wishes,

 

Ian

Thursday, 6 June 2013

Living in the Minor Key


The moment of Communion at the Coronation
This week at Amersham Free Church, as part of our LunchBreak programme, we enjoyed a wonderful concert by a local trio of musicians called Stromenti.  They played authentic 17th/18th century instruments such as the spinet and viola de gamba.  We had lots of ‘bouncy’ (I know that isn’t exactly a musical term!) contributions but one piece, by Schultz, was a Suite in D Minor.  As he introduced it one of the musicians commented on its ‘sad’ key but said it was still lively and enjoyable.

I readily admit that I’m rather fond of music in a minor key – it has a certain pathos and integrity which can go deep.  In fact I would go as far as saying it can reflect life more honestly than a piece entirely composed in the major.

That point came home to me a bit on Sunday as we remembered the 60th anniversary of the Coronation.  In the evening, along with a few friends, I attended a Coronation Classics concert at The Albert Hall with The Royal Philharmonic Society.  It was a great event – how could it be otherwise with Zadok the Priest and the Hallelujah Chorus?  We were even given Union Flags to wave during the singing of Land of Hope and Glory at the end!  However, and this is a fleeting observation not a major criticism, the concert was entirely in spirit, if not in actual technicalities, in the ‘major’ key.

Not so the Coronation – at least not from the recordings I saw on TV last weekend.  That’s because at the centre of that long service, after the crowning, the Queen and the Duke of Edinburgh received Holy Communion.  It was, in the midst of so much dazzling splendour a solemn and reflective moment.  For the communion speaks to us of sacrificial service, compassionate self-giving and the endurance of suffering for the sake of love - and perhaps at its centre its simple message is that life cannot be lived entirely in a major key.  So as bread and wine were taken and the beautiful music of the Psalms filled the Abbey Church of St Peter there was something of the minor key being understood and acknowledged in a day otherwise filled with colour and pageantry – thinking about it, maybe even the rain that day was God’s way of bringing a sense of reality back into the fairy tale!

So, when I listened to the radio news on Tuesday evening and heard the Guardian columnist Simon Jenkins call for the next Coronation to be an entirely civic one overseen by Parliament rather than the Church I just wondered how such a ceremony could replicate what was done with such nuanced subtlety in the Abbey that June day sixty years ago.

Living in a minor key isn’t about being miserable – it’s life lived with honesty, trust and understanding.  At least that’s my take on Schultze’s Suite in D Minor!

With best wishes,

 
Ian

Speaking of Sin

Tomorrow I’m attending a Ministers’ Book Discussion Group in Luton. We meet up three or four times a year over a packed lunch to discuss a...