Children friends

Dear Friends,

Would you like to be a child again? Would you like to return to a time when you are young, with the world before you?

As we all know, the world is a different place from what it was ten, twenty, fifty years ago. Children today face significant challenges – perhaps the most debilitating of these challenges are those that arise from issues around obesity, social media and the culture of testing in our education environment. All of these can engender anxiety levels which if we are not careful may prove to be incessant and utterly counter to living life well. Anxiety and fear rob all the generations of so much – so it is imperative we discover life where confidence and grace are nurtured.

Jesus invites ‘let all the children come to me’. Come to be blessed, to be made whole, to be the person you were meant to be. Coming to Jesus means being loved completely, being given confidence to be who we are, being guided to enjoy life in every circumstance. When society today invites the children – it seems it is almost the exact reverse of these Jesus invitations – rather it is to over-eat and indulge, to be subsumed by the approval of others, and to be subjected to anxiety levels driven by relentless testing programmes.

The message of Jesus is pertinent to each of these elements. Jesus is described over and again eating in the company of others. We are to teach our children the value of the shared meal, gathering across the generations, where so much more than food is given and received. Jesus teaches us very directly to look to our Father in heaven for direction, forgiveness and value… ‘follow me and be my disciple’. And Jesus teaches us ‘not to worry…let tomorrow take care of itself’.

To be part of a community which accepts us simply as we are – without any prejudice or judgment, but simply in love and mercy – is integral to living life well. The context of family has the golden opportunity to provide this  – and ‘family’ today can take many forms. No family will be perfect, no family will get everything right…but a family committed to the flourishing of each member is a unit where growth and confidence are guaranteed. The extended relationships of family are incredibly important as the different generations provide wisdom, experience and an energy for what is new – all of which helps both young and old to find and re-find perspective. Relationships, family relationships, are never a one way passage – there is always to and fro, backwards and forwards from one member to another.

The ministry of church is centred very much on this family grouping – in the many baptisms we host, in the comfort and hope provided in times of grief and in the joyous yet reverent celebration of marriage…to have and to hold. In all of these contexts the gathering together of family – to support, be-friend and just simply to be there – are central to the celebration or memorial. Children who grow up within a framework of relationships – relationships which bless and strengthen – have such an advantage.

In these really challenging times for our children we must remember to pray – for our own families and for those whose family is under pressure. And as we pray, we can choose to be the person who brings people together in ways of blessing and peace – to sit around the table, laugh and cry with each other, and share life together.

Process of beginnings

Book with work Baptism highlighted

Dear Friends

Sometimes it’s good to go back to see how it all started. Just to refresh the memory… to get a nudge as to how it all came to be… so we have the passion for history and the stories of long ago… we have the curiosities of family trees and how the generations connect with stories mundane and extraordinary.

As we know, the bible begins with a couple of stories of how the world began. Genesis begins with the evocative cadences known only too well : ‘In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth…’ We are told the earth was ‘formless and empty, darkness over the surface of the deep’. In these words we have a picture of chaos without sense or meaning, and we are then told ‘the Spirit of God was hovering over the waters’.

From this beginning God spoke – in the Spirit over and into the chaos of no meaning and substance. And in the speaking creation was formed. God said ‘This is good!’
We are blessed in church to host many baptisms, or christenings for families across our parish. These times are gatherings of celebration as new life is held, cherished and blessed. Usually the baptisms are with young children, but not always as each year we baptize some adults as well.  In the service of baptism we have a bowl (font) of water. The Holy Spirit ‘hovers’ over the water and the water is blessed. The names of the child/adult to be christened are spoken and something new takes shape as God’s promise of a love which never ends is proclaimed. The newly baptized enters the family of the church, and so the household of heaven is enlarged and made new.

For many of us, life can often seem as though it has little meaning or purpose. It can sometimes seem a bit ‘formless’. Yet, in these times the Spirit of God is near. The Spirit of God is what gives the energy and impetus for something remarkable to be formed out of the ‘formless’. Often a word is spoken, maybe a word of encouragement, or a word of gratitude or even a word of correction – and from the word spoken ‘in the Spirit’ something new is created.

In many ways this ‘process of beginnings’ sums up the ministry of the church. The society we live in – even though it is policy driven, regulated and scrutinised from every angle – is scarily formless and chaotic. So much of existence is simply getting through the day, with so many petty arguments and rivalries. The connecting thread which provides meaning and purpose is rarely visible, and so for many the idea of being ‘happy’ is living in dreamland.

Yet, over society, the Spirit of God hovers. The Spirit is uniquely present and waits for the word to be spoken. And this time the word is spoken through our lips, from our hearts and out of the overflow of the blessings of God in heaven. We as members of the church, hear God’s word into our hearts, we speak this word (through what we do, say and always in who we are) – and then something wonderfully new takes place – a heart is enlarged, a life is blessed, a possibility becomes real, a promise is fulfilled…
And God in heaven acclaims over and over again, ‘This is good!’

The family of God is called to be near the formless, chaotic bits of life, to sense the presence of the Spirit, to hear the word of the Lord and to speak it from the abundance of a heart of love. And always, always, it will be good…