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Being Thankful (July 2020)

Dear Friends

I am writing this in mid-June, with midsummers day approaching.

This is otherwise known as St. Johns Day in honour of John the Baptist. After Christianity spread throughout the pagan world, Christian symbolism was attached to many of the pre Christian rites associated with this day. In pre Christian times, fires would be lit to celebrate this event.  Since the influence of Christianity these fires are referred to as St. Johns Fires after the verse found at John 5 v 35, referring to John the Baptist. “He was a burning and shining lamp, and you were willing to rejoice for a while in his light.”

Midsummer’s day is more widely celebrated than it is in England. We have frequently seen pictures of Stonehenge at this time of year with ever increasing crowds to witness that is to many a spiritual event. Shakespeare makes reference to this festival in a Midsummers Night Dream. It is also one of the quarter days and a feast day in the Christian calendar. In Scandinavia, it is celebrated with enthusiasm.  Here the sun sets at 10:00 pm and rises again at 02:00 am! Not good for those who like to sleep more than four hours!

We are half way through the year and what a year it has been.

Who would have envisaged what was going to happen. This time last year, many of us were contemplating a summer break either here in the United Kingdom or abroad. Alas, I feel that many of us won’t be going far. For a significant number of people the boundaries of their house or flat have been all encompassing. I don’t think any of us will forget 2020 in a hurry. What effect the last few weeks have had on all of us and the country will only come to light in years to come. Our way of life might have changed over recent weeks but one person is always there for us. “God is our refuge and strength, a very present help in trouble. “ Psalm 46 v 1.

Reflection is always a useful tool to engage. Looking back, we can sometimes see things that could have been done differently, while other reflective episodes can bring wonderful memories to the fore.
Neil in his last letter referred to Ignatius and his suggestion of the Daily Examen. As Neil has kindly explained, this comes in five stages.
Some stages are based on reflection and others based on forward thinking and looking. Reflect the day with gratitude and the gifts that we have received from God, during it. These may only be small things to some but have greater importance to others. Love, Peace, tastes and smells to name but a few. All are equally important. Reflect on our emotions during the day.

At this point in church life, it gives us an opportunity to reflect over the last two years. I feel that we started off tentatively, but as time has passed, working together, we have grown stronger, more resilient and confident. We have made significant decisions, two in particular. Firstly to become a joint pastorate with Thornbury United Reformed Church. A decision that can only benefit both churches. We have made new friends and shared coffee mornings and services together. Secondly, we have made the decision in conjunction with Thornbury, to invite Neil as our minister.

Thankfully he accepted.

In this time of reflection, I would just like to say a large THANK YOU to everyone. As I said at the beginning of the interregnum we are all part of a team. Without each other we cannot function effectively and move forwards. Both of which I feel we have managed. Personally, I have felt well supported in my role as church secretary. Everyone has been very accepting and forgiving in the many mistakes I must have made.

I would especially like to thank all the elders past and present as well as church officers who have had to put up with me chairing meetings! Thank you to, to the Worship Group, Finance and Property and the Social Committee. Don’t worry; we will have you back in action before you know it! I would also like to thank the Revd. Sue Cossey for agreeing to be our interim moderator and guiding us through the whole process.

Neil finishes with focusing on the next day as well as looking further into the future. Many of us may feel slightly dubious in joining society again as restrictions are eased. To some it will mean exiting the locality they have become used to. Faith will help us in this. “Now faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the convictions of things not seen.” Hebrews 11 v 1.

We look forward to welcoming Neil, Jenny, and their family into our community. With Thornbury we are commencing on a new journey, with Neil to lead and help us in the next phase. We have a lot to be THANKFUL for.

Neil concludes we should finish with the Lord’s Prayer:  Our Father, who art in heaven, hallowed be thy name; thy kingdom come; thy will be done on earth as it is in heaven. Give us this day our daily bread. And forgive us our trespasses, as we forgive those who trespass against us. And lead us not into temptation; but deliver us from evil. For thine is the kingdom, the power and the glory, for ever and ever. Amen.

With Love in Fellowship, 

Chris Hyland