Varied thoughts

I was at a Clergy Synod last week. Clergy Synods involve gathering all the clergy of the diocese for a day of training, normally three times a year. It has been a good way of helping us to know one another, as well as keeping us up-to-date with the thinking at the centre, and new ideas in various fields.

This Synod had John Truscott speaking about “Mission Minded PCCs”. An interesting title – and he was a good presenter. I thought Sketty might come out of it quite well, because one of the things we have stressed over the years has been the need to think of Mission in most of what we do, including the “gutters and downpipes” of parish life. We didn’t do badly, but there were still useful ideas and insights.

We began with the need for a clear purpose. I wonder if you could explain to someone else the purpose of the PCC (remember we shall be having elections at the Vestry on 8 April!). John Truscott suggested that the role of the PCC is concerned with leadership more than representation, with risk more than with safety, and with modelling discipleship and decision-making for others. Demanding ideas, but necessary at a time when “no change” is “no option”.

He then went on to talk about having a big agenda – immediately saying “big” did not mean “long”. A Mission-minded focus would show as we set about being the community of Christ’s Church, rather than a charitable club. The agenda would be Christ-centred, resisting the constant temptation to talk about “safe” but trivial details.

By this time we were perhaps a bit dazed, but encouraged. A third heading looked at the PCC as a team of godly people, for whom meetings were just events as they tried to achieve something for Christ together. The hope that members should grow in discipleship through PCC service is a challenge. Note that nominations are now open!

Andrew Knight ‘14

Autumn. Watching leaves turn and fall (and sweeping them up!). Harvest Festival gives way to All Saints and Remembrance. It’s a time to look back, and also forward. Writing as I prepare to take another funeral, I realise how important both are, to our Christian lives as well as everyday balance.

Fail to look back, and you only repeat the mistakes of the past (say some). There’s truth in that, but it’s not the only reason for reflecting, looking back over time, whether with old photographs, or school reports and work diplomas. It helps to work out who you are and what you have done, to point out the changes – good or bad. There are many different angles: work, family, hobbies, even pets. Each will have its stories, and those told by other people may be interestingly different to the way we remember (or even fail to remember). It all builds up to a picture, perhaps not as flattering as we might have hoped, but real in its variety and its development.

Leave it at that, and depression can set in. Better to take it forward. With that experience, having recognised those talents and gifts, where am I going now? The answer is never nowhere. Even if you already have heard the dreaded words from the doctor and have a terminal diagnosis, there is looking forward to do. Things have changed over time, but what am I called to do now? Some of those activities – typically the more energetic – may not be relevant now, but the world is desperately short of people to listen, take an interest, use the time they have and others don’t, pray.

Even if you have to plan for the time you are no longer on earth (an activity of value for all of us – Will Aid operates in November), doing that well is a real gift of love for those who remain. Don’t forget, at the same time, to look forward and prepare for the Resurrection. Jesus died so that we might live with him – not as if everybody goes to heaven, but as a precious gift to those who live by faith. How is your faith, by the way? It hasn’t got forgotten in all the nostalgia and planning, has it?

Andrew Knight. ‘13

How do you belong to Church? While some Christian organisations have more formal membership lists, Anglicans are a bit vague. There is the Electoral Roll of the Parish, but anyone can ask to be included, and it is not an indication of attendance. (By the way, we shall be re-making it next year, asking everybody to sign up again). We keep some lists, especially when we have to assess the number of our “Regular Attenders” for the Parish Share calculation, but belonging is not really about being on a list.

Some people belong by always going to the same service, and that sort of loyalty certainly gives an identity. But others, equally loyal, will attend at different times. That may be a helpful pattern, as it seems likely that in future we shall need to move between buildings more. I think that belonging needs to begin with faith. I belong first to God, as a Christian trying to be aware of what I have been given, and finding my identity in that. I move on from there to things that may be helpful, but are not essential. The Church in Wales, part of the Anglican family, is also where I belong, as is Sketty Parish and its two church buildings. Those are not central, but they play a part.

It is people who really give a sense of belonging. I value the small groups I belong to, especially housegroups. In Living Faith, or Bible Study, or choir, music group or bellringing, I am known and have a place (not always as leader). These are the people perhaps more likely to pray for me, the places where talk about things that matter comes more naturally. I encourage you, if you are not already involved, to find the place where you belong in Church. It will enable you to be useful, and to enjoy the gifts of others. It will also, increasingly, provide people who know and care for you, which may be a very real support in difficult moments. Many people in Sketty don’t participate in anything like this – but loneliness and isolation can result. It is a long time since we could provide a Vicar for every crisis, but for those who belong, there will be people to care, support and pray.

Andrew Knight ‘14

Winter, Christmas past, a good time to look forward. I am writing as we have just had Geoff Harley-Mason with us for two days, consulting on our Children and Families work. It is good to look back and assess what has been done, and to consider what might be the next steps.

There is always the temptation to look back, and do no more. We have done some useful things, enjoyed the best bits, survived the disasters that threatened. Now (the temptation goes) perhaps more of the same, or have we earned a rest? While the strength of feeling grows as we get older, we also know that health is in keeping active. What is true of physical health is also true of spiritual.

If the past had some good things, what does God have in mind for the next stage? It is important that we think of his plans, and not just our own. It is also important to remember that God is endlessly creative. He addresses the situation as it is now – not as we would like it to be, nor as it ought to be, but as it really is. Things will have changed since we last had a good look, and God will be up to date with that – but will we?

Part of our future is to look forward to a Ministry Area, sharing with the Parishes of Killay and Tycoch. The hope is that we shall be able to share strengths with them, each bringing the best of our experience, and learning how to respect differences. Alison is working on “Open the Book”, as a project which crosses Parish boundaries and loyalties. We are also exchanging clergy on third Sundays (so that at least we are familiar faces), and thinking of bringing the PCCs together.

Will it work? Can it be something positive for God’s Kingdom and Mission? It should be, and we must work, pray, and learn to make it so. Can’t we just go back to where we were comfortable? No, that is a temptation (as well as an illusion), and needs to be recognised as such.

Andrew Knight ‘14

The Church is becoming more diverse. At one time it seemed as if the only difference between congregations was the speed at which they sang hymns. Now there are varieties of language, music, structure, formality and the presence or absence of projectors, amplifiers, lights etc. While sometimes a bit confusing, we tend to agree that it is a good thing that people can find styles which suit, and help them to experience God in worship.

Of course, different styles require different gifts. No longer can a cleric with a clear reading voice expect to be able to lead any service. Some need a practised multi-media presentation, others careful timing according to the reaction of the congregation, or the ability to relate to children, or . . In wider church life, we need people relating to all ages, to singles as well as families, to the addicted and unemployed as well as career professionals. The “one size fits all” leader will not work (and probably never really did). But how are we to provide for this, and at a time when congregations have shrunk, and money is tight?

Our Diocese is encouraging us to look at the Ministry Area model. It involves a bigger area than the Parish we are used to, in which ordained and lay people work together, and paid and self-supporting too. (Some, but not all, clergy will be paid; some, but not all, lay leaders will be self-supporting). We shall probably need to grow into this, making adjustments as we explore the benefits and try to avoid the pitfalls. As a model it should provide better for everyone, but it will need active participation.

That is surely on the right track. Church was never designed to provide passive attenders with “what they want”. Rather, Church is a family of Christian disciples, using their gifts to help one another on the journey. Worship, prayer, study, training – all this and more need to be available, with encouragement to share and adjust.

Andrew Knight. ‘13

Does faith ever frighten you – and should it? Reading stories of the early Christians, it is clear to me that they were quite often out of their “comfort zone”. They faced new experiences, good and bad, travelled away from places they knew, and learnt to rely on God in ways they would not previously have dreamed of.

This didn’t all end with the first generation of believers. We now face a number of challenges, and our response will be very important. Take Ministry Areas, for example. We know that with rapidly reducing numbers of paid clergy, it will be necessary to change the Parish structure we are used to. In its place, larger groups of congregations will work together, with a mixed leadership (ordained and lay, paid and voluntary) working in new ways to take advantage of the gifts of each one. Scary? Different? – of course. An opportunity to develop Christian life for a new situation? – yes, if we face our fears and work hard to make the most of it.

Then there is the challenge of passing on the gospel to the following generations. We have offered them the chance to do things the way we like them done, to be our juniors, and (perhaps wisely) they have declined. Now we have to face the fact that our mission has largely failed, and we need to accept that life, lifestyles, and culture have changed. Yes, we must pass on the gospel, Good News for all generations and all people. But can we face working out what is “gospel” and what is just our (dated) “lifestyle”. It’s a challenge, and will need us to enter and engage with a world we don’t know, and may not like. Missionary work on our doorstep.

Perhaps we have concentrated too much on the comfort of a gospel of peace (a real part of the message), and forgotten the challenge and excitement of living for Jesus. How many young people bypass Christian faith as “too challenging”, compared with those for whom is seems simply “boring”? Could it be that our example has failed to show how we face up to fear and challenge, and so give a distorted picture of Christian life? That’s a frightening thought!

Andrew Knight. ‘13

Have you ever thought that the state of your garden might reveal the condition of your soul? It may be an eccentric thought, but have a look through the window and dream for a moment.

Some gardens are loved into perfection, and others abandoned to wilderness, but most are somewhere in between. There are those that started well, but don’t get enough time or love now. Does that have a spiritual counterpart? Surely yes. Does the condition of garden match the soul? I leave that one to you.

I once took on a garden where the previous owner had mowed the lawn once a week – and done nothing else at all. I wasn’t greatly impressed as I struggled to prune and dig. There are surely souls like that. At the other extreme, I once had a neighbour who dug the ground three times completely, removing every root and stone, before assembling nursery grown plants in ranks. Most of them survived, but somehow it was – well, rows of nursery plants and not a garden. There was no adventure, no unexpected discovery, nothing to surprise or delight, or even nurse back to health.

Many of you will know my garden is certainly not tidy. Many plants have been there a long time, but there are newcomers. The arrangement seems to have “happened”. On the other hand, it is fertile because of the compost and leafmould, and there are birds and animals enjoying it, and sometimes leaving “accidental” seeds and trees. If that is the state of my soul, well it could be worse – but also better. I’m not going to dig up either and replant from scratch, but . .

You will probably be doing some gardening in April and May. You might like to reflect on why, and what you value and enjoy in it. At the same time, play the game, and wonder what it might say about your spiritual life. Do you like the answers? Do they make sense, or need excuses, or make you want to find some new things to add colour, shape, look brighter, or simply reduce work? Try reversing the process – if your soul was a garden, what would it look like, and what would you then do about it?

Ramblingly yours, Andrew Knight. ‘13

I am writing this on my computer, but using the free software available from Libre Office. It seems quite familiar after using various commercial software packages over the years – many of the conventions and habits are the same, or very similar. Yet it is free, as are the updates.

How is that possible, you might ask. Is this not a careful marketing strategy, to draw you in (like some “free” things which are trials for a limited time of software you will have to pay for). It seems that behind Libre Office (http://www.libreoffice.org) are a not-for-profit foundation (we would say Charity) called the Document Foundation. They have taken over work of nearly 20 years, including the “Open Office” suite, and will continue to develop it to be freely available and secure from bugs and problems.

Not only do English speakers benefit – there are groups working to produce the material in other languages (Arabic, Welsh, – even Catalan and Irish). Not only is there a Word Processor, but also Spreadsheet, Database, Presentation, Drawing and Formula sections – all free, as are extensions and templates.

Why am I putting this in the Parish magazine? Well, firstly I thought many of you might like to take advantage of it, and some might even join the volunteers who make it happen. Secondly, though this is not a Christian or even religious venture, the vision of a virtual community developing something for the good of all, and giving it away, is attractive. The market was in danger of giving way to a monopoly, (software from “you know who”), and monopolies are dangerous in many ways. Now that is challenged.

I should have said that Libre Office is available to work under Windows, Mac, or Linux systems. My next venture is to play with Ubuntu, an alternative to Windows. You’ve guessed it – it is distributed free, developed by a voluntary community, with free updates every 6 months. It would take getting used to, but I wonder . .

Andrew Knight ‘12

Which is more important, the big vision or the detail? I suspect that is an example of asking the wrong question. There is no doubt that you need to be going somewhere, and to have an idea of where and why, if you are to be motivated and purposeful. At the same time, if nothing works because the detail is missing or wrong, frustration is guaranteed! Neither is “more important”, we need both.

This time of year is holidays for some, and life as normal for others. In Church terms, we are in the sequence of Sundays after Pentecost, with the occasional Saint’s Day to break the – well, I hope not monotony! The pattern of the Church Year makes sure we attend to the big picture: we think of Creation at Harvest (and Stewardship Thanksgiving), of God coming to his people (Christmas, after preparation: Advent) and showing his plans (Epiphany) despite the cost for Jesus and those who would follow him (Lent and Passiontide). We are reminded of the victory (Easter) and the power given to direct and inspire us (Pentecost). Then we don’t go to sleep until we start the cycle again; we need to think about the detail.

We can work out the detail in all sorts of ways; what matters is that we do work it out. This is a time to look at what Jesus taught and did, and apply it to our lives as we go about them now. In this season we can look at the early Church through the New Testament letters, and see how they managed, and learn both from their successes and mistakes. Sometimes it helps to work the other way. What our our issues and questions? What isn’t working and needs a different approach? Take that to scripture and look for answers, pray about it, see what others have thought and done, and then (importantly) incorporate the answers into your discipline and way of life.

The “Sundays after Pentecost” aren’t a gap, they are an essential part of the programme. We need to apply both the wider vision and the detail to us, and to me, in ways that are relevant and effective. All that remains – is to do it!

Andrew Knight ‘12

I’ve just come back from a four day training Conference on Christian Deliverance. It was an excellent event, with people who knew their subject (including two Christian Psychiatrists, a Bishop, several people sensitive to paranormal phenomena, and about thirty of us who were involved as Christians dealing with the odd, ghostly and demonic.)

A good deal of the lecturing and discussion was technical – from Bible study to Insurance, diagnostic flow charts to vulnerable adult protection. One question did strike me as much more general. When a Deliverance advisor works with a Parish Priest, which is the normal practice, the first thing they have to do is get as full an account as possible of what is happening. Who is involved, where, what are they experiencing, and how do they understand it? After prayer and reflection, they will then suggest what they think needs to be done, and if that is agreed and done, will also watch the effect that action has. Of course, all of that is useful in “normal” Christian life – to know who you are, what your life of faith involves, and the results of your prayer, study and worship is helpful to everyone.

Sometimes we are told of great disruption – objects moved, appliances turning on and off without cause etc – and asked to get rid of the cause. This can be delicate, for the cause may be a person in the house. It seems that some people, when stressed (eg by the changes of adolescence) can cause this sort of event without knowing or meaning it. The best reaction then is to find the causes. Dealing with them usually stops the disruption.

In much the same way, each Christian life faces the question: “What must go, thrown out of this life, and what needs to be recognised and integrated?” It is not always straightforward, as a good Christian life needs to know personal strength and weakness, to be realistic about relaxation as well as service. We shall not be brave if we refuse to think about what frightens us, nor faithful if we do not identify temptations. We may want to get rid of things that are truly part of us, and equally to hold on to things which must go. What are yours?

Andrew Knight ‘11

I am writing this letter just after returning from a few days holiday. It was a good break, and we enjoyed it for a variety of reasons. I imagine many of you will be looking forward to something similar, perhaps even reading this magazine on holiday. Have you ever wondered, then, whether heaven will be like one long holiday?

At first it is an attractive thought. Being where you want to be, (that might be part of heaven!), and in a beautiful and safe location, (that sounds possible, too) – yes, the comparison is worth pursuing.

Heaven has sometimes been compared with a great banquet. Now, I don’t know what you like to do on holiday, but I certainly hope to enjoy my food when I’m away. It is easier when eating doesn’t have to be fitted in between other things, and is less likely to be disturbed. In the same sort of way, Bible pictures of heaven don’t include cold winds, sudden thundershowers, or unforeseen dangers.

At this point we need to be careful, though. It is rather nice on holiday if somebody does the cooking for you, and even the cleaning and organising . . I don’t think there is anything that suggests heaven will have “staff” to work for you, or indeed that you will get your own way and your own choice of location, activity etc. (Remember the story of the choirmaster who encouraged an unmusical congregation with the comment, “You’d better try and sing more enthusiastically, or your eternity in the heavenly choir will be sheer hell!”). Perhaps if heaven is like a holiday, it is more a family, self-catering one, where there is some work to be done, children to be entertained, and still a good time to be had.

Will there be work in heaven? I don’t know of clear answers; I guess that in the sense of boring, pointless activity, no. But will we still have purpose, and purposive activity in the worship and service of God? I would guess, and hope, yes. Perhaps heaven will be like an activity holiday, learning something new, and taking pleasure in doing at least as much as lazing. I wonder. By the way, are you coming to Greenbelt?

Andrew Knight ‘11

By the time you read this, you should have heard a good deal about “Giving in Grace”, and sermons (perhaps housegroups, too) on what Jesus said about possessions and wealth. I found it very interesting at the PCC Awayday earlier in the year when we began to look at this subject. I think many of us had shied away from the old complaint, “The Church / the Vicar is always asking for money”. If that was true to the exclusion of saying much more positive things, the Church or Vicar was not being true to the gospel.

When we started the discussion, though, we found that Jesus had spent a good deal of his teaching time on the subject of how to own things properly. I suggested one or two stories about this in the gospels, and asked for more, and we quickly made a long list. (You might like to try this for yourself!). What he had to say was very positive. It’s not that wealth is bad, or that religion is about ignoring possessions. But wealth and possessions provide one of the easiest stumbling blocks to practising Christian faith, if we haven’t learnt how to think about them.

I am afraid that some people will try to dismiss Giving in Grace as an appeal for more money. It isn’t. It is a request to think and pray about what Jesus taught, and all the blessings God has given us. It is only as a response to that giving and goodness (that “Grace” – thus the title), that we can properly consider our giving.

In a similar way I am delighted that Giving in Grace does not divide our budget among our members and say, “That’s £X from each.” We have people in very different situations. Some have little income, others much more; some are new to faith, and just taking first steps in giving, others have the maturity that comes from experience of God’s goodness over many years and in different situations. The principle of proportional giving is important. One twentieth (5%) of income given to Church is a challenge, but not enough to cause poverty! The actual amounts will vary with income, but the faithfulness of the gift is constant. Some will want to think of a legacy, as a different way of offering support. Each person makes their own decision – but please do respond to the challenge to review your giving (of all sorts) with reflection and prayer.

Andrew Knight ‘10

Summer is a good time to sit back and enjoy, – and I suggest that you do just that. Go for a walk and enjoy the park or countryside. Sit a little longer over your meal, and enjoy the taste. Be selective about your choice of television or entertainment, and relish the variety. Visit friends and family, or host them, and share their successes and delights. Go to Church, in Sketty or away, and savour the generosity of a God who creates and redeems, and encourages our worship in a host of musical, linguistic and cultural styles.

God is good – and one of the great lies is to picture Him as small minded, negative or mean. Of course that doesn’t mean no hard times, discipline or struggle, but then especially we need to remember how much and how gladly God has given. If we are facing a harsher economic reality in Britain for a time, it will be all the more important for us to remember these positives.

In Sketty, we shall be reminded of them by a programme called “Giving in Grace”. This has several elements. First, a teaching programme, using the lectionary readings, and housegroup material, from September. There will be encouragement to Pray. Then every member will receive a letter, brochure and response form, asking them to review their reaction to a generous God and a Parish plan needing support. This will come to a climax on Thanksgiving Sunday (planned for 10 October, not Harvest which is earlier).

That’s not the end. We shall evaluate the process, and hold a renewal next year and in the years following. Our hope is that “Giving in Grace” will help us all think through worship and ministry, as well as bringing our giving up to date. It’s not “fundraising”, but applying what Jesus said about possessions, resources and money. The Stewardship Group, who have been looking at the scheme, are enthusiastic. The PCC, who talked it through at the Awayday, found it helpful and enlightening. I hope you will, too!

Andrew Knight ‘10

I am writing this month from the Canon’s flat in Brecon Cathedral Close. As usual my two weeks “residence” has been varied – services, special events, odd jobs. It is less stressed than normal Sketty (which is welcome), but brings the challenge of adapting to a different place and a different way of doing things. That is useful, not least because it comes less often with seniority, but remains important.

One of the strange things about being a cleric is that the chances of seeing other churches at work are few. It should be easier for most of you, but I wonder if you take, and value, the chances to worship and find fellowship elsewhere? Of course it will be different, and will take an effort, perhaps to work it out and keep up, perhaps to censor any comments you may want to make. But if you do make the effort, what benefits there are! Of course there is “What a good idea, I hadn’t thought of that but it would be better!”, and “I’ll have to think about that, but I’m not sure I see / agree the point”. Some things are less obvious, “They really seem to value that (surprise!)”, “This group has a different style / feel to the one at home (why? what?)” and “Have I really grown so used to having my own way?”

You might think that this was limited to the oddities of other Church services, or to younger people who might move around more, but I doubt it. As we get older, we often go through a time of stability – we stop moving from one job to another, we settle into a house, Church, and community. That is more temporary than we might think – there will be more moving and adaptation (perhaps to a flat, or to family, before heaven).

My time in Brecon helps me think about Sketty, and not get too fixed in a pattern. I think that is good, for me and the Parish. I wonder if you manage to value both stability and flexibility? Perhaps we shall sing during Pentecost “Break me, melt me, mould me, fill me”; you can reflect on how easy you will find that process, and whether it can be optional.

Andrew Knight ‘10

Do you ever wonder what happened to the Bethlehem shepherds? We read about them at Christmas, their angelic visit, and then the trip to see a baby in an animal feeding-trough, and their reactions. It would be nice to know what happened afterwards. Did any of them see the Wise Men come and go? Were any young enough to hear John the Baptist, or the start of Jesus’ ministry?

This time of year is about moving on. We have heard the Epiphany stories of how Jesus became known and talked about. Now the “Sundays before Lent” help us pause and set that in wider context (Creation 7th, Transfiguration 14th), before looking at the commitment and the cost (Lent begins on 17th). Then Easter will explain why it mattered, and how all was worthwhile.

It would be nice to know what happened to the shepherds. They had a terrific experience, and left us a important pointer to Jesus. But did it move them on to new life and hope? We could ask the same thing about so many others – those who travelled to hear Jesus speak, or to be healed. If we ask that question, we have to be careful that it is not to avoid asking if we are moving on ourselves.

Moving on! Do we do that? We ought to. The cycle of the Church year takes us through salvation history, not just so that we look at each bit in turn, but so that we can learn something new, having moved on since last year. The secular world keeps the Christmas story in a box, to be put away until next year, and separate from Easter and anything else. The Christian life joins the Christmas story to our life now, and to Epiphany, Lent, Easter, Pentecost . .

Our Christian practice should develop in a number of ways. Growing experience and faith should mature it. Changing life patterns – age, work, resources, free time, fitness (and many more) should offer new opportunities, and sometimes channel us to new challenges (whether voluntary and welcome, or not). Above all, our Christian life should be practised – which means moving on, adapting, growing in grace and skill. I wonder about the shepherds, and sometimes about me, too.

Andrew Knight ‘10

I am writing this (late) in a September which, once again, is full of desk and paper. I have been Clerical Secretary of the Diocesan Conference for something like fifteen years, and each autumn it means assembling, editing and typesetting the Diocesan Report. Last year that was 20,000 words of reports, minutes, and financial information. This year there is good news and bad; we have changed the format (more work!), but I am in process of handing the job over to someone else.

The question that comes to mind is, “What is it all for? Does it matter?” It would be easy to be cynical. How many people read the reports? Do they do anything about it? Is it just a waste of time? Certainly there is no point in producing print just for the sake of putting things down, or doing what used to be done.

Yet I try to remember how difficult it can be for people when records are inadequate (an issue we face from time to time with burial records). I also recognise that accountability is vital; too many organisations with good and well-meaning leaders flounder from lack of openness to question, and of careful review. For all that it can be irritating to be called to account, and many new ideas will clearly not work, adaptation and openness to grass-roots insight is an essential.

And what about people? Sitting at my desk, phone or e-mail takes away from time I might spend visiting and counselling. There has to be a balance, but the Diocese (and Parish, in a smaller way) needs careful procedures around appointments, and the development of vision and plans. Appoint the wrong Vicar, let a committee waste time and money, and people will be hurt and the work of God’s Kingdom held back.

I suppose that the Diocesan committee and special interest work of clergy is often hidden from general recognition, yet the Church as we know it depends on time given, plans made, and questions asked. When clergy are invisible, they may be working hard!

Andrew Knight ‘09

August is coming, and with it, holiday time. Some go, some stay to receive visitors, and much “normal” activity is suspended.

I think it was the sixth century Rule of St Benedict that first suggested life include worship, rest, study and work. The sense and moderation of the formula won it widespread acceptance. In present time, there has been some concern about work – life balance. It seems ironic that the technology which allows us to avoid repetitive and unsatisfying tasks also makes it easier for us to take work home and add to stress. There seem to be twin temptations: to work more than we should (for money, promotion, recognition . . ) or to be lazy (why bother if you can get by?). The fact that they are twins mean that the person guilty of one may be accused (or accuse themselves) of the other, horribly confusing the issue.

Somewhere there is a proper pattern, but I don’t think I have got it yet! I suspect that worship, making God both the focus of life and its director, is important in avoiding the selfishness of idleness or of ambition.

So, if August is a time of rest, enjoy it and take full advantage. If it is work (including the demands of hospitality), enjoy it and take full advantage. If September then means a return to work, and to increased activity in Parish life – enjoy it and take full advantage.

Yes, it is probably idealistic (and I probably need to say this to myself, but take permission to eavesdrop!), but can we be positive about this? Can we rest thankfully, without needing to apologise or anticipate the next busy time? Can we work, enjoying the fact that we are able, and that what we do has purpose? Can we remind ourselves that study (Benedict was thinking of spiritual reading) and worship are not only for those who have to or even those who like to, but something we all need? It would be good – if we could.

Andrew Knight ‘09

I have sent off for the Holiday Club materials. This year “Showstoppers” follows a dramatic theme, so we shall all be giving our best performances in the first full week of the summer holidays (Mon 27 – Fri 31 July, 10-12 each morning). No doubt there will be lots of fun, as in previous years, with Bible stories, craft and games for 5-11 year olds and their helpers. I hope we will be well supported from our Sunday School, but there will be other children to welcome, too.

Perhaps next year I shall be able to pass on the “lead” to a Family Worker (we will be short-listing by the time you read this – do pray for the right person!). But however it may change, I suspect something like Holiday Club will continue. It is one of those important events which draw people in, because the value and enjoy it. We have a number of them in the Parish – ToTS (in both churches) and Lunch Club spring to mind, but there are others, and special services, too.

This involves part of what it means to be a Church. Of course we centre our life together around regular worship, which includes teaching (from various people and in a number of styles) and the sacraments. Then there is the importance of small groups, where there is more learning, and pastoral care, and “belonging”. Alongside these, we need opportunities for service, and our local community must have a variety of “ways in” – to explore who we are, what we do and why.

That, of course, is the big test. If people come and find us boring and just out-of-date, we lose. We can lose, too, by being discovered in gossip, power struggles and grumpiness. But even if we can’t fully overcome our frailties, we can hope and pray that some will find a glimpse of God. It may be in loving care, or a different motivation, or even in the way we admit and sort out our mistakes. We take a risk in being on show – but being a Church involves taking risks in serving and trying to help others to a faith of their own.

Andrew Knight ‘09