From the May magazine
One of our Licensed Lay Ministers writes...
Is There Anyone Out There?
We are in the triumphant season of the Easter story of Resurrection, and moving towards Pentecost when we will remember how God's Holy Spirit is found to be demonstrably present among his friends. The experience was so powerful that it needed exaggerated language to describe it, the language of a rushing mighty wind and tongues of fire.
But as I write this in April we haven't yet arrived at Holy Week, and I am carrying both the "before" and "after" Easter stories in my mind. And I can see how much the one relies on the other. I was washing and polishing some of my bowls and jugs in preparation for the Foot Washing on Maundy Thursday, when the friend from France who was staying with us asked me what "Maundy" meant. I confess I had to look it up. Apparently the word is derived from the Latin verb "to command" referring to the only command Jesus gave to his disciples, and still gives to us today, "to love one another"; to surround one another with the warmth of love, to rejoice together in the good times and carry one another in times of grief and fear.
Easter was late 30 years ago too, and it was during Holy Week that year that we lost our darling son at sea, never recovering his body. I remember on the day after this tragedy saying to my husband "I feel as though we are being upheld, but we are here in Ibiza, and none of our friends in England know what has happened". But I was wrong: the Daily Mail had somehow got hold of the story and the news quickly spread. All through Holy Week prayers were being said for us in church, and our neighbours were walking the lanes of Little Bookham, crying. When we arrived home the house was full of cards, flowers, cakes and other goodies, and there was a constant stream of people standing on our doorstep in tears claiming they didn't know what to say. They were carrying us and sharing our grief.
I'm sure many of you, like me, have a list of people we pray for every night. And it is easy to get discouraged. "Is there anyone out there?" I sometimes want to scream. But those of us who have been the object of prayer know that there is, for we are being upheld. As a friend said recently when I needed an operation to remove a cancer, "Gail, you were the only one who wasn't worried about you" and she was right. I felt completely confident and relaxed, surrounded by all the thoughts, love and prayers of my family and friends.
I'm never sure what people mean when they say they love God. I appreciate this is a huge confession! But who or what is this God we claim to love? Do we imagine an old man in the sky, or have some other handy picture of what or who God looks like? And if we do are we not confining the great transcendent force of creation, wisdom, and life itself into something we can control, and carry around in our pocket? The amazing truth about the Christian faith as opposed to most other religions is that, yes, we do. In the story of the incarnation, this transcendent, creative, power of love reveals him/herself in human form, and tells us to love one another.
But love is costly. I remember feeling guilty that our son's death had caused so many people to feel despair. And it made me realize that none of us have the luxury of being able to suffer on our own. Those of us who love carry some of the pain of our neighbour; we share the burden.
A rushing mighty wind and tongues of fire! There is nothing sentimental about the Spirit of Love which fills and empowers the disciples. There is nothing sentimental about the love in which we hold one another during danger, sickness, or grief. There was nothing sentimental when Jesus hung bleeding on a cross because he loved us so much. And he must have been well aware of the danger his disciples would face after his death, when they would need the Spirit of Love to carry one another through all the persecution and hardship they would face.
"My God, my God, why hast thou forsaken me?" "Is there anyone out there?" Yes there is; it is unsentimental, costly, empowering love, as filled with the Holy Spirit we realize the Maundy Thursday command to be Christ in the world today. May the Holy Spirit of storm and flame fill each one of us that we may dare to suffer out of love for one another as Jesus did for us.Gail Partridge
Do you think that the church looks cleaner? I hope that you do! On the first Saturday in April it was subjected to a vigorous "Spring Clean" organised by Sue Roberts. Twenty people, organised into teams and allocated parts of the church, brought down the cobwebs of last year, vacuumed carpets, washed and polished floors, climbed ladders and cleaned windows, polished pews, and buffed up - that's a technical term - the eagle lectern. Candle wax was lifted off the carpet with a hot iron and brown paper - please take care you candle lighters and snuffers - and monuments dusted. The workers also ate cake and biscuits, enjoyed a selection of music over the sound system, drank tea, coffee and squash and talked a lot.
A great deal of "tidying up" also took place so if you can't find the flower vase you're looking for, or a particular kneeler, that book you've been waiting to read, those extra copies of the music for the St Thomas Mass, the old cross that used to stand on the floor behind the altar, then put it down to the tidy angels who devoted their time to making our church a cleaner and more pleasant place in which to worship. Give thanks for the work of Sue, Martin, two Jans, two Peters, Matt, Graham, Sheila, Donald, Angela, Nicky, Juliet, Frances, Margaret, Roger, Bill, Valerie, Ruth and Rosemary.
Most people - especially those approaching their 150th birthday - know that the present pews were installed in 1873. Before then there were box pews. Thanks to some historical research by John Morris we also now know who "owned" most of these box pews towards the end of their life in 1871. Sue Roberts will be making more of this at Heritage Weekend but it's curious to wonder who the children were who came from the Mansion School and sat in pews 69 to 73, and the public house that had been owned by the retired publican Mr E Clark in pew number 77. Mrs Henderson and the vicarage installed their servants in pews three and four; no doubt to make sure that by being sat at the front, the incumbent could keep his eye on them. Was he perhaps the Robert Griffith who built the former Vicarage in Church Road?
The Leatherhead Deanery Synod began this year's season of meetings in February with a speaker from the London Institute of Contemporary Christianity. The theme for the year is community involvement and the Revd Doctor Johnny Douglas started off the programme with a lively and provocative evening. Later in the year the Dean of Guildford will talk about "how the Cathedral engages with its communities" followed in September by Archdeacon Paul leading an evening's examination of "the parish church and its relationships with its local community". There is no doubt much that we might be able to learn from this last session. Our representatives on the Synod are Sheila Cole, Roger Lynch and Donald Yeates.
Some more progress has been made in planning the work of the Quinquennial repairs. John Bailey our inspecting architect and his colleague Fergus McCormick spent time on 7 th April examining and photographing the detail of the work to be done. All of the repairs will now be specified, the specification sent to the Diocesan Advisory Committee, reviewed by the PCC, and then invitations to tender prepared. There were around 50 or so occurrences of damage inside and out which will need the attention of various trades including a steeplejack.Donald Yeates
Notes from the Belfry
On Sunday 23rd March a 1/4 peal of Plain Bob Triples containing 1260 changes was rung by the following:-
- Anne Parr
- Ann Steed **
- Clyde Whittaker
- Rosemary Henderson
- Peter Ford
- Rex Woodland
- Mike Todd
- John Verity
* 1st 1/4 in the method **1st as conductor
Rung to mark the 5th Birthday of Megan, granddaughter of Rosemary Henderson.Peter Ford