Letter from the Vicarage - July 2018
Dear Brothers and Sisters,
We have been doing a lot of soul searching work within the church leadership lately, discussing how we can be a church that is more welcoming, inclusive, accessible and hospitable for everybody – no matter what age or ability, no matter what colour or creed, or even what faith or no faith! I not only think but know from personal experience that it can be very hard just to come in to a church, let alone sit in a congregation of strangers and then listen to something that seems very alien in this day and age. I took myself to church at the age of 11, having prayed to God for healing after an accident that damaged my sight – the usual bribery that we all know – “Dear God, if you can heal me I promise I’ll go to church…” We were not a church going family and I can only think the place where I had learnt any thought of God was from school assemblies, so this was all quite surprising to my family, as you can imagine. When I arrived at church, no-one said hello, no-one helped me, no-one explained anything and at one point I was even told to get out of someone’s place in the pew! - All very demoralising, unhelpful and off-putting to a young, scared but conscientious child who wanted to keep her promise to God… Perhaps this background helps you all to understand where my passion for welcome comes from. But my passion is not just because of historical experience, it is also theological. My personal and prayerful passions for welcome, inclusivity and improved accessibility boils down to the fact that I believe we all are children of the same creator God. God to me is ‘Life Itself’ and we are all born from and within God through the mechanism (for want of a better word) of love and relationship. If that which is ‘Life’ or ‘Existence’, (which we call God) did not exist then we would not either… But as we do exist, God must exist and therefore can only be inclusive, as to be exclusive would be to deny the Godself. This type of discussion reminds me of the joke: ‘Descartes and two other philosophers were in the pub one day, and at one point Descartes disagreed with the others on a particularly topic, saying “I don’t think so!” and he promptly disappeared! Descartes was, as probably you all know, the philosopher who famously said, “I think therefore I am!” Therefore if he didn’t think so, he couldn’t exist… Interestingly animals seem to know they are instinctively born of God and therefore part of God whereas humans seem to have lost that intrinsic linkage or put ourselves above it or put barriers in the way – the ‘sin’ or separation to which the story of Adam and Eve in Genesis points. I believe my journey from that scared 11 year old to becoming a priest in the Church of England has been (and still is) about helping the church to remove barriers which, over centuries have been put in the way for a number of reasons which may have been appropriate at the time or not. Some barriers may have been necessary to maintain law and order, for example; some may simply be ‘barriers’ of language, symbols or ‘church stuff’ that are natural stages of learning which with the correct mentorship and teaching can be overcome. But other barriers may have been most unhelpful: ones based on insecurities, petty power struggles, selfishness or corruption even (all sadly very un-Christian). These may have actually hurt people or prevented them in the past from coming into the grace of God when they most needed to – like when I did at the age of 11 years… A church cannot be true to God with barriers, so we are definitely about removing barriers and then helping and encouraging people to be less afraid of walking together in God’s love. So I invite you all to come to the new additional services which we have started (see centre pages of the magazine) or to come to the Forum on Thursday evenings in the Church Hall or to exploring Christianity on Wednesday evenings in The Vicarage. These are new or fresh expressions of church for the service of our local community. Also, our new Benefice logo (above) is all about revealing God’s love and our commitment to walking together with all, onwards and upwards…! Do go on www.frenshamchurches.org.uk to find out more about this and see it in colour!
With all love and blessings
29th May 2018: Funeral of Michael Rasbid
4th June 2018: Interment of the ashes of Marion Badland
10th June 2018: Baptism of Arthur Moorhouse
30th June 2018: Marriage of David Woodrow and Penny Saunders