Sometimes, when the team puts its thinking cap on to write this letter, we Google a key word to focus our minds on a possible theme and this month it was – ‘Autumn’. And as well as references to the richness of the harvest, we found there were many gloomy quotes, particularly by poets, dwelling upon the shortening of the days and the sense of entering a period of cold darkness.
But looking out of the Benbinfro office, with its view of apple trees still bearing fruit and the golden brown of the recently cut wheat fields, none of us felt that this season is a time of impending doom, as D.H.Lawrence implied in these lines from ‘Ship of Death’ – ‘Now it is autumn and the falling fruit
And the long journey towards oblivion …’
Actually the more well-read amongst us ignored Google and flicked through the Oxford Dictionary of Quotations, coming up with some lines by the novelist Elizabeth Bowen, which we felt more accurately describe the sudden switch from the warm days of late September to the crisper weather of these months:
‘It is about five o’clock in an evening that the first hour of spring strikes –
autumn arrives in the early morning, but spring at the close of a winter day.’
Yes! we all said, reading those words. We know autumn is finally here when we wake one morning to see a chilly mist hovering over the fields, a light frosting on the grass and probably a slick of ice on the car windscreen as well. But that doesn’t mean it’s a gloomy time for us. With the final flourish of dahlias and asters, surrounded by vibrant leaf colours picked out with bright sunlight on many days, autumn is a time of riches, especially if we have been lucky enough to harvest apples, beans, blackberries and late raspberries. And as the leaves fall and the colours fade, although our gardens and the countryside may become stark and almost monochrome, the strong structure that underlies all that seasonal lush growth is revealed in its simple beauty. Bare trees silhouetted against a wintry sunset or dawn are one of the most beautiful sights to be seen in this benefice.
But for anyone who does feel downcast by autumn and the onset of winter, what words of comfort can we give? We all feel it helps to see this as a time to take stock of what has been achieved in the year that has nearly gone, to rest and reflect like the plants and animals in Nature in a period of dormancy and to plan for a new year ahead. As it is said in Ecclesiastes 3:1 – ‘For everything there is a season and a time for every matter under heaven.’
So we are determined to enjoy the frost, the rain and the snow to come (yes, even on mornings when even the dog is reluctant to venture out) knowing that it is part of the pattern of our wonderful world and knowing too that ‘The grass withers, the flower fades, but the word of our God will stand forever.’(Isaiah 40:8)
|Since our wonderful choral Advent service (see above) will be held on Saturday, 30th November, there will be no choral service on the previous Sunday, 24th November, despite it being the fourth Sunday in the month. Instead, there will be a short, reflective service of evening worship held at the normal evensong time of 6:30 pm. This falls the day after the Christmas Fair in the church (also advertised elsewhere in this issue) – we are coming up to a busy period in the church calendar….
Modernisation of church facilities
We have now formally started the application process to the Diocese for permission (a ‘faculty’, as it is called) to upgrade and refit the vestry to include proper kitchen facilities and improved storage arrangements. The goal is to start this work as early as possible in the New Year, depending on how the faculty application process goes, and to time the work to cause as little disruption as possible to the normal use of the church. The first part of the work, however, before the contractors move in, is for us to clear the vestry of its present contents and find a temporary home elsewhere in the church for those contents. Nigel Southern and Jan Elliott, who are managing the vestry upgrade project, will be looking for lots of help with this at some point early in the New Year!
Those of you who were at the meeting in the church in September will recall that we were considering combining the vestry refit with the renewal of the church lighting. The PCC decided in the end that it was too ambitious for us to handle both projects together, so the lighting replacement will follow, probably early in 2021.
These are the first phases of our plans for modernizing the facilities in the church. These plans have been made possible by some extraordinarily generous donations. More funding will be required, though, as our plans progress – so you will be hearing more from us on this, I’m afraid! We also hope that as many people as possible will get involved in shaping the future phases of the plan, particularly when we come to replace the sacristy, which is a major challenge ahead of us – a project which was first attempted in the 1980’s, when it proved too difficult. We now have the opportunity in the next few years to address this….!