At a time of year when everything seems fresh and new, when green buds are glimmering on the trees and primroses are thick beneath the hedgerows, it seems appropriate for the Benbinfro team to think and discuss how we can revitalise ourselves and our work. We have new energy in our youth team with Sam and Gemma, but for much of the time it is all too easy for us to continue conducting our services with familiar words and patterns. And for many of us, that is exactly what we want and expect. Intoning words that have been repeated time and time again is both comforting and reassuring. But when something becomes that familiar, does it become less meaningful? Are we less aware of its significance?
This kind of thought crops up whenever one of us attends a service in another part of the country, where the liturgy has been rewritten or where the expected elements of the service appear in a slightly different order. One of us came back from a brief holiday with the news that they had attended a service in which the Peace had come immediately after the introduction to the service! Shocks all round, but then when we thought about it, there seemed to be some merit in encouraging the entire congregation to make peace with one another before proceeding to the even more serious business of preparing for Communion.
And now this week, a member of the team has returned to report that in North Cornwall, the cluster of six churches there is promoting the idea of Holy Habits. We all thought that would obviously mean serious prayer, contemplation and definitely very long periods of silence. But no, apparently in that group of parishes, it can mean simple everyday activities like singing a favourite hymn, writing a poem, or even baking a cake! What, we all said, how can these be Holy Habits and how can this benefit our churches? But there’s more to it, our informant said. These habits or activities are to be dedicated to God. So we could sing a favourite hymn or worship song privately to God as a gift to him. Thank goodness it said ‘privately’, one of us said, then it won’t offend anyone else!
But seriously, how can this be an act of faith? So we all began to think about it and then one of us said, it’s about being the best version of yourself that you can be. It’s about making the most of your God-given talents and trying to improve any skill which is unique to you. It means recognising that we must all offer ourselves to the service of God and do our utmost to find a way to best express our appreciation for the talents we have been given and not waste them. Whether that is singing (privately or in public), writing, painting, gardening or baking, we must do it whole-heartedly and be thankful for these gifts.
But what if we aren’t creative, can’t sing for toffee and can’t bake lemon drizzle cake? And that was when another idea culled from a service in a different parish offered a solution. There, the preacher had talked about each of us not only being ‘a light’ shining in the world but also being like salt. Each member of the small congregation was offered a pinch of sea salt and asked what salt meant to them. Salt preserves and is also itself ever-lasting. Dissolved in water that is heated and boiled until all the liquid has evaporated, there will still be grains of salt. By being salt, we can preserve and spread our faith. And also, those of us who aren’t star bakers or great artists, can be like salt which is used to enhance flavour, by encouraging and supporting others and bringing out the best in them.
We ought to go on holiday more often, the team decided after a length discussion. And then one of us, who had spent most of the time Googling Bible quotes about salt, said this one ties in perfectly with our recent sermon on James, who warned about the perils of the tongue and the harm it can do.
Let your speech always be gracious, seasoned with salt, so that you may know how you ought to answer each person. Colossians 4:6
So let’s all be saltier!
You might have noticed in recent weeks small teams of people with rather sophisticated equipment looking busy in the churchyard. They are helping us to find out whether changes in soil condition are causing the movement of the tower against the nave which has become apparent in recent years, and also giving us better information about the drainage systems running through the churchyard, which we shall need when we come to upgrade the facilities in the church.
....and above ground.....
The first part of this upgrade is now beginning to look very real. Earlier in February the Diocese gave its approval to the refit of the vestry, as referred to on these pages in February’s magazine. We are now in a position to make a start on this. This project is being led very kindly by Nigel Southern, supported by a small group comprising Jane Macnabb, Jan Elliott, Mike Starbuck and me.
The first step is to find a temporary home within the church for the existing contents of the vestry. Once we have cleared the vestry and taken up the carpeting, we can address, alongside our architect, Louise Bainbridge, the existing damp and ventilation issues and how best to deal with the drainage facilities which the refitted vestry will need. Only then can we decide upon contractors for the various aspects of the work. At that stage we shall finalise the ‘look’ of the cabinet units and surfaces – an aspect of the work which will be of interest to everyone who uses the church. In terms of timing, we would not expect any contracted work to be started until early summer. We shall have to ensure that the work is timed and organised so as not to disrupt the weddings over the summer. And, for you loyal supporters of Teas on Tuesdays, held in the church every Tuesday afternoon in June, rest assured we shall not be deterred by the disruption.
We shall not, therefore, be making commitments to contractors until well after the annual meeting (the APCM) which we hold in the church each year in April – this year on Thursday 2nd April and at which we hope to discuss progress and expectations. So, if you are on the church electoral roll, do please come along to that meeting – wine will be served from 7:00pm, with the meeting starting at 7:30pm. We also expect to provide an update three weeks later at the Parish Council AGM on Wednesday 22 April. In the meantime, if anyone has any concerns, do contact me at any time.
Lent is upon us, Easter not far away
Our Easter events will be highlighted in next month’s magazine – there will be a wide range of these across the Benefice on each day of the Easter weekend, starting with the very special Choral Communion Service in Froyle church on 9th April (Maundy Thursday), and the always interesting and entertaining Benefice Passover meal later the same evening – venue tbc.
In the meantime, don’t forget that, as highlighted in last month’s magazine, the Bishop of Basingstoke is giving the sermon at the 11:00am service in Froyle on Sunday 8th March, followed by the confirmation of a number of people from the Benefice, including some from Froyle, at the 5:00 pm Live@Five service in Bentley – do go along and support them!