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Branches on the same vine - July 2022

On Monday evening, 20th June, I had the great pleasure of sitting with our church wardens at the Archdeacon’s Visitation service at St Mary’s, Wedmore. It was a very special occasion in many ways. First and foremost, it was a wonderful recognition of the ministry and service that our wardens give to us all and to see them stand to have that celebrated was, indeed, special.

What was special for me, personally, was that I had the opportunity to worship alongside our churchwardens – something that I rarely do as I am ‘up front’ leading or preaching. It struck me that this is how we should all view our various ministries here in the Benefice – we minister together, not as individuals, despite doing different tasks. Whilst each of our churches has its own unique character, both in terms of buildings and people, we, nevertheless, minister together in the Lord’s name.

There is so much Scripture to support this. In John 15, Jesus uses the imagery of a vine to illustrate connectivity. We are not separate pots, standing on our own; we are one vine and we all benefit from the feeding which God’s Holy Spirit provides. The vine itself is the person of Jesus, to whom we are connected and must remain in order to flourish. In verse 5, Jesus says this, “I am the vine; you are the branches. If you remain in me and I in you, you will bear much fruit; apart from me you can do nothing.” (NIV). This for me is the foundation to all ministry – to recognise that ministry is a gift from God and we are only truly ministering when we remain in him. The moment we start to think that we can do this in our own strength or ability is when, from my personal and painful experience, things begin to unravel.

At Deanery Synod and at the Visitation in June, we were asked to reflect upon Philippians 4:4-13. Please could I commend that passage to everyone to read prayerfully and to examine what is being said by Paul to a church community? He ends the passage with the words, “I can do all this through him who gives me strength.” (NRSV) There will be times when we feel overburdened or under skilled but, in a sense, it is within those feelings that God has more room to work so powerfully in our lives, as opposed to a heart that says, “No thank you, God; I’ve got this covered.”

Paul talks with honesty to the Corinthians about his weakness, but for him it is positive: “Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may rest on me. That is why, for Christ’s sake, I delight in weaknesses, in insults, in hardships, in persecutions, in difficulties. For when I am weak, then I am strong.” (2 Cor. 12: 9b-10, NIV).

As we move forward, let us consider these two key aspects of our lives in Jesus: we minister together and we minister in the strength of the Lord. May we feel together in his love and his protection and know of his strength by the power of his Holy Spirit for everything that the month ahead will bring.

   
  Revd Alistair Forster - Priest in Charge  

 

 


New Beginnings - June 2022

When Heather and I visited the Benefice in late January, nature was still dormant in the most part. Despite this, there was the promise of so much to come.

There were the apples from last season on the lawn of the Rectory and, whilst appearing unappetising, they spoke of what had been. The remains of flower heads could have seemed depressing but, out of that seemingly dead scene, the promise of new life was just under the surface – waiting for the right time to emerge once again.

There is a chance that for many, the restrictions of Covid might have presented such a scene of existence, so far removed from blooming but life was, and always is, present in God’s creation. I have been so heartened by the well-spring of life that I hear has continued throughout the vacancy and Covid, and we stand at a point of new beginnings. Heather and I feel very blessed as we take stewardship of such a mature, beautiful garden and now we wait to see what will flower or fruit! There is an excitement in waiting with expectation to see what will emerge and, in a similar way, we all wait with the same expectation and excitement to see what God will reveal for us in our church worship and witness in the community.

God has revealed his will to us all that I was to be your Priest in Charge and I thank God for the many blessings that we have experienced through the love and kindness from all in the Benefice and I offer my heart-felt thanks to everyone who has welcomed us in such an amazing way. But now we look forward to seeing what God has in store for us all here.

When I was ordained as a priest, the Bishop of Croydon charged me with two phrases, amongst others.  The Bishop made it clear that priests are called to, “Watch for the signs of God’s new creation”. In truth, we are all called to look for God at work in this community and where he is working in people. Rowan Williams is credited with the phrase that mission is about, ‘Seeing what God is doing and joining in’.

This is where we are now – as the body of Jesus Christ: looking for God’s presence and movement in our community and joining in, obediently. The bishop also states a truth that can be overlooked to our detriment. He said to us, “You cannot bear the weight of this calling in your own strength, but only by the grace and power of God…Pray earnestly for the gift of the Holy Spirit.” How true and wise!

As I write this, my mind is looking forward to Ascension Day and reflecting on Jesus’ words to his disciples to prepare them for his departure. In John 16, Jesus says, “… it is for your good that I am going away. Unless I go away, the Advocate will not come to you; but if I go, I will send him to you.”

Ascension Day is not a day of loss; it is a promise of a fulfilled future in the power of God’s Holy Spirit. This was experienced and realised at Pentecost and is there for us all today. Let us lift up our eyes, look for what God is already doing here and by the power, and in the strength of, the Holy Spirit, join in with God in his mission already begun here.

Last Updated by AG 23 July 2022

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