Thoughts from the Vicar
Sunday 11 November
3rd Sunday before Advent Remembrance Sunday
One of our favourite places to go on holiday is Dartmoor and amongst the many routes we have walked is the “Road to Nowhere” from east of Princetown towards Hexworthy. A well built track that, as its name implies, runs to nowhere. I had assumed it was a disused tram way or railway until discovering it had another name “Conchies Road” and had been built by those held at Dartmoor prison during the First World War for being conscientious objectors.
About 1,000 men were held at Princetown - out of a total of about 6000 nationally imprisoned during World War One for being conscientious objectors. The largest group of these were Christians who thought killing others was contrary to the Christian faith and the clear teaching of Jesus. Compared with the millions who served, it is a tiny number and standing up for their beliefs cannot have been easy in the face of pressure from family, friends and community as well as government propaganda that was particularly condemnatory. The majority of these who wouldn’t fight because of their faith still served but in non-combatant roles.
Conscientious objectors were not the only group that didn’t fight or serve and there were a variety of reasons for this. A man could appeal not to be conscripted after the 1916 enactment and far more people sought exemption on the grounds that their jobs and/or making money were too important for them to fight.
If we were to ask people today the question ‘What were people fighting for back then?’ the answer is often something about values closely connected with individual rights and personal freedom. This is a line we also find reinforced in battle movies from The 300 to Braveheart and Saving Private Ryan.
In contrast, if we look at or listen to the record of those who went to fight, they speak of very different motivations: duty, loyalty, comradeship, fighting for king and country, or fighting on behalf of one’s village, college workplace or Union Branch. This shared loyalty and collegiality is why the losses for some villages, workplaces, communities are so devastating.
As we mark the 100th anniversary of the ending of the First World War, the values of those who fought are the values that seem to be being most undermined by today’s rampant individualisms. And the values of those who didn’t fight, whether prioritising money or individual freedom, seem to be the ones that are in ascendancy. The worry is that as we lose sight of the importance of loyalty, collegiality and being part of something larger and more important than simply our individual wants and needs, we are in danger of walking a road to nowhere.
This Remembrance especially, let’s not just remember who died but why they fought.
Sunday 4 November
4th Sunday before Advent
The vicar’s thoughts take a variety of forms – this week is a news update on two important matters.
Like with every football team when a key player is side-lined by injury, manager and fans worry how the team will perform during their absence. When there is an operation needed before they can return the worry, anxiety and expected layoff is always greater and longer. As a Church ministry team, we are in the same position, we are facing the run up to Christmas and the congested Christmas calendar a member down, we will be without Avril. If all goes according to plan she will be back early in the new year within plenty of time for the Lenten fixtures and run in to the triumphant celebration of Easter. Do keep her and Keith in your prayers. Clearly this will leave a big gap especially in communications and Sunday worship, Worship rotas have had to be reorganised and the first issue of the worship Diary for November has now been superseded by a second edition.
Continuing with the football analogies the vicar and family are about to follow the same route as Tottenham have done, moving out of their old ground to a nearby stadium, while the old football ground is demolished and a new one built.
Those who watched City win on Monday night at Tottenham might be wondering if that means we are moving out to a place that has been trampled over by an American football team! The good news is no, the rental house is in great condition and will make a perfect base while the work on the vicarage site takes place. Clearly this has not been an easy decision for us as a family. All the children’s childhood has been at Meadowside and we have many happy memories of the house and especially the garden. Having built walls, shifted vast amounts of soil, laid paths, put in fencing, the vegetable patch and numbers of fruit trees and lots of plants, there has been a lot of time, financial and emotional investment that is going to be bulldozed, which is sad. However, the new vicarage when it’s built will be a house that will be economical to run, and be a suitable base for a twenty first century vicar, and that is good for the long-term future of the parish.
We will be moving before the end of the month so please keep us in your prayers A big difference between football and Church is that in football a team can’t have more than eleven players on the pitch, but in the Church, everyone can be on the pitch and active as part of the team here at St Peter’s.
Sunday 28 October
Last Sunday after Trinity
What we measure matters
When we look at and think about Jesus’ life and mission, the first things that come to mind might be his teaching. Maybe particular parables, the sower or the prodigal son that have been the topics for our sermon series this autumn. Or we might think about some of the characters Jesus met. Everybody likes the little tax collector Zacchaeus who climbed a tree to see Jesus and ended up having Jesus round for tea, or the woman Jesus meets by the well who tells all her friends about him.
For others it is the amazing miracles that draw our attention, the healing of the man born blind, the calming of the storm, or the amazing miracle at the wedding at Cana when foot washing water is turned to finest wine. Then there is the most amazing miracle of how Jesus on the cross takes our sins and our failings as all forces of darkness do their worst, but even death cannot defeat God’s plans and purposes, Jesus bursts from the tomb on that first Easter day. The disciples meet the risen Jesus in the upper room, by the lake and in the breaking of bread at that wayside inn on the road to Emmaus.
With all this to give thanks for and learn from it’s easy not to notice Jesus’ leadership strategy, and particularly his use of teams. Jesus worked with a group of twelve, but there was an inner core of three. He sent disciples out two by two but gathered them as a seventy two. He calls people not to solitary faith but to be part of a body, a vine, a building, an army to work together for his king- dom purposes.
This key aspect of Jesus’ leadership style is replicated in our Church life in Hubs, Ministry Team, Wardens’ Team and many other areas. Like the cells of a plant each small grouping of Christians gathered for a particular purpose is a place where life and growth happens. This fundamental truth has two key consequences
1 Active participating is good. Whether we are a holy duster, a singer, a house-group or PCC member, belonging is good.
2 Sharing leadership and responsibility with others is vital. If people think they are not needed they will not volunteer and if they are not given responsibility they will soon drift away.
Jesus trained, equipped and sent out the disciples and after his ascension passed full responsibility over to them. Who are you training up to lead what you lead and do what you do in church life?