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Journeying together (November 2020)

Dear Friends

I’ve been thinking a lot about the things that sustain us. I guess that’s inevitable given some of the strains and stresses of these uniquely strange times we’re enduring. There are the basics of course. They will be different for each of us and vary in their scale as we move through the years but some common threads emerge: the food and drink, the home, the family and friends, the work, the environment around us.

There are other things that touch and feed our souls. The pink and peach that stains the clouds as the sun sets and the gulls cry. The sound of laughter and the smell of fresh bread still warm. The music that somehow gets inside us. The knowledge that we are loved and the ways that love is shown. The novel or the poem that catches us in its spell. The film we cannot forget. The work of art that delights us. The kindness of strangers.

And there is all that feeds our journey with and for God. All I’ve named already does that. I cherish just how often the Holy Spirit does her marvellous work through unexpected tinkering with the raw material of life. There’s the regular wonder of worship, and the community of faith that forms a congregation.

Walking together as the friends of Jesus is no small thing. Sustaining that walk takes ingredients. If it is, as we say, the most important journey of the many journeys any person ever makes, then sustaining it matters. Maybe sustaining faith has seldom come into the sort of sharp focus this year has demanded from us all. Sustaining faith invites us to gather the right ingredients and mix them well. I think one of the most important things a congregation ever does is discover how best to gather those ingredients and mix them together.

We’re going to be heading into Advent as November ends. It will be a significant time to culminate a tough year. I want to offer you something by way of a gift for Advent to nourish your soul, to excite your imagination, to touch your heart and to bless you with the good company of others. Impossible? Not at all! Will it be fun? You bet it will be! Are you invited? Absolutely!

After conversation in the Elders’ meetings of both churches the Holy Spirit did what so often happens and landed me in the midst of fantastic opportunity. Mark Pilgrim, the vicar of St. Peter’s Anglican Church, our immediate neighbour at Trinity-Henleaze, approached me having heard I was into art and how art can help God do business with us and us with God. We talked and a little idea quickly blazed into life. And here it is...

“Advent’s Art” is going to be a Zoom exploration every week open to everyone from Thornbury and Trinity-Henleaze URCs and St. Peter’s. It will run every Tuesday evening of Advent for four weeks starting on 1st December. You’ll find details in this month’s newsletter. Please join us for what is going to be a wonderful opportunity to find some blessing and good as Advent unfolds.

And this is just the start! I want to build upon this as 2021 dawns to begin a regular online opportunity to refresh my faith and your faith; to uncover together deep deep wells of life-enhancing, faith-renewing goodness. It will be via Zoom. I know! We all get zoom-fatigue now and then, but this will be a fun use of the tool I promise. Using Zoom will let it be open to both of our congregations and will make it available to some who cannot come into our buildings. It will be a chance to explore the Bible and other things like art and film and books and places and praying and...

It will not be a heavy lecture but it will have real content to make it worthwhile. It will not be boring, ever. It will absolutely be open to all and never just for a few with expertise in certain things.

I’m very excited about it even as I have to admit that I haven’t worked it all out yet. But I’m so excited that I wanted to let you know it is on its way and you’ll hear much more about it soon. I haven’t quite got the name right either. For a while I liked “Bible Book Club”, but think we’ll explore beyond the Bible too. So maybe “An Oasis” to capture that place of refreshment even in the hardest wilderness? Perhaps it could be “Imagine!” or “The Well”? Perhaps, reading this, you’ll think of a fabulous title and tell me. And my prayer is, reading this, that you’ll want to join in and find for yourself something wonderfully sustaining and good.

So, pop that Advent Tuesday evening slot in your diaries now, and watch out for the New Year’s newness.

With my prayers and best wishes,