Good afternoon dear Friends of The Valley
These Thoughts from The Vicarage are arriving early this week with two pieces of most wonderful news that I am so thrilled and thankful to share!
Firstly, Sunday will be especially spirit filled this week as Lucy, Carol and Stefan – are baptised in St Michael & All Angels at the 11 o’ clock All Together Service. As adults, each wishes to be baptised and it would be wonderful if as many as possible come along to celebrate this momentous moment for each of them and for the churches in the Valley.
On the surface baptism is a simple human act – a service, a ritual, yet at the same time it says something bigger about our lives, where we belong, how we see the world and where we’re going in life. In fact, none of those being baptised on Sunday will mind me sharing how these were all points that each made as we were talking about the sacrament of baptism.
Beneath the act of baptism, that moment when the blessed water will flow over each head, is an opening up of a mystery – the mystery of God revealed in Jesus. As in all of the sacraments, baptism is an outward and visible sign of an inward, unseen, yet very real, outpouring of God’s infinite love for each of us.
On sharing the news of Lucy, Carol and Stefan’s baptism someone asked what is the point of baptism. My response was simply that baptism is a response to God’s love for each person, made in his image. It’s the life to which Jesus calls us – it’s essentially simple. The simple life – the life of the kingdom – consists in the abundant awareness that everything we receive is a gift that we did not earn or purchase, and in the recognition that life itself is the first of all gifts.
Thinking more deeply on the mystery of baptism prompts further questions for us all about our own baptism and discipleship, walking with Jesus. How do we live out our baptisms, individually and as a community? For example, what difference might it make to my secular life, how do I respond, day by day to my baptism and what can we do to nurture the baptism of others?
If you’d like to join in discussions about living out baptism, you’d be welcome to join in with Wednesday @ 7 when we explore just such questions. . . at present we are on the zoom code on the Sunday sheet which is the same for the offices of Morning Prayer 8.30 am daily (except Sundays) and Compline at 8.30pm daily.
Morning Prayer is a brilliant way of reading the psalms and I can’t recommend it highly enough! On certain days we remember the saints who have inspired us. This week was the turn of Richard Bishop of Chichester. His famous prayer, comprising just two sentences is a truly succinct masterpiece with gratitude for the blessings of his redeeming life and work with a request to the Lord for help how to know, love and follow him more faithfully. How very appropriate for this Sunday as Lucy, Carol and Stefan are baptised.
Most merciful redeemer,
friend and brother,
may we know you more clearly,
love you more dearly
and follow you more nearly,
day by day,
I also appreciate the ‘day by day’. It is significant and reassuring. Christians of an impatient disposition may be reluctant to accept this, but genuine discipleship takes time to approach maturity. It deepens little by little, perhaps occupying a lifetime, and even then will be neither perfect nor complete. Let’s use this season of ordinary time to reflect on those three interwoven themes as we pray and see where God leads us as we pray.
A second wonderful cause for celebration is the Churches Count on Nature Week which was a wonderful event held in Eastbury and Lambourn churchyards. Lured by the beautiful weather St James’ yard had some quadrants laid out for closer inspection, areas of the yard unmown from ‘no mow May’ and the smell of coffee and baking from inside the church! It was a truly joyful morning as plants and animals were discovered, identified and recorded to be sent off to a central database. Thanks to all those who got the day off the ground and to everyone who came along.
Lambourn churchyard welcomed every class from Lambourn CE Primary school last week – and discovered flowers, trees, insects and all sorts of creepy crawlies. Thanks to all who leant a hand either in the yard or in the walking back and forth to school. The class teachers and Tas loved bringing the children and everyone we passed as we walked through Lambourn waved enthusiastically at the crocodile of children. I must admit it felt as if a little normality had returned to the village. Indeed there were beams all round! And then on Saturday we welcomed people with the lovely Reflection seat, more refreshments in the Northern side of the yard that afforded some shade!
What struck me throughout was the bank of knowledge and experience that we have in our midst as we think more about being living stewards of God’s creation. Thank you so much to all who made such a fabulous 10 days so very special.
To round off last Saturday we celebrated the marriage of Becky (who grew up and went to school in Lambourn) and Aaron and once again what joy to hear the bells ringing out across the Valley. Thanks to Alex of The George for the photo!
And finally …
Please remember those to be baptised on Sunday in your prayers.
Looking forward to seeing you soon meanwhile, God bless.