Dear friends of The Valley
I trust that you are all keeping safe and well and that you were able to celebrate Christmas 2020 in a different but equally meaningful style. Thank you one and all for your kind messages, cards and gifts – all much appreciated!
New Year’s Eve
For many, New Year’s Eve is going to feel very different as we move into 2021. As midnight approaches we’ll be together in spirit, not with large, public celebrations of years past, but with whispered rumours of hope and anticipation of all that the year ahead may bring. I trust that we will be united by prayer as we look ahead remembering all that has grieved us and all that has brought us to joy while looking ahead in hope to 2021.
At 4pm New Year’s Eve there will be a short, but truly moving service on line in which St Paul’s Wokingham invite you to worship. A chance to look back on all that 2020 has been, to offer our prayers and memories to God and to look forward with hope, knowing that, whatever happens in 2021, God is with us, and always will be. Having had a sneak preview of the order of service I suggest you prepare a candle and a lighter if you plan on joining in here on Thursday 4pm.
The coming weeks are a time of ongoing joy and celebration. Christmas Day is not the end of Christmas but its start. It is the moment we begin to rejoice that God is born as one of us. Christmas then carries on through the feast of the Epiphany this Sunday January 3rd. This is when we remember the arrival of the Wise Men in Bethlehem, the showing of Jesus to all people. Christmas continues right up to when we celebrate Candlemas on Sunday January 31st . Always a very beautiful Feast of the church with many candles when our thoughts begin to turn to Easter. The crib and decorations stay in church for the whole of the season because all of it is Christmas, all of it cause for joy.
Services for Epiphany Sunday January 3rd
- 9am – BCP Holy Communion St James the Greater Eastbury
- 10.30 – Eucharist St Michael & All Angels Lambourn
If you would prefer to remain at home there are alternative churches to ‘attend’ including
- Church at home from Oxford https://tinyurl.com/y9joetru
- St Paul’s Wokingham via UTube or FB link
- Christchurch Cathedral Oxford https://www.chch.ox.ac.uk/oxfords-cathedral/online-worship
Heavenly Host of Angels
The especially impressive Heavenly Host of Angels produced by so many from the Valley and beyond have nearly all found homes as messengers of God. At both Midnight Mass and the Christmas morning service people were invited to take an angel for their prayers at home. We still have a few remaining and you are welcome to go along and take one for yourself. The church is open from 8.30 to dusk.
Many have commented me about the joy of our churches being open as places of comfort, of peace and of a reassuring presence in these everchanging times. It is indeed a joy for myself as a priest that this is the case. And I know that for some it is simply not possible to gather together at this time. Please do not hesitate to be in touch with me if you would like prayers or receive communion.
And of course, our churches would not be safely open were it not for those who enable all that to happen. An enormous and heartfelt thank you to everyone from all three Churches for the effort you put into making Christmas special in all three of the Valley churches.
We’re almost at the turn of the year. May I suggest that along with the traditional Ring Out, Wild Bells of Lord Alfred Tennyson we may find comfort and solace in Psalm 90 ‘Lord, you have been our refuge from one generation to another’ along with this poem written by a friend of mine Steven Shakespeare taken from his book ‘The Earth Cries Glory: Daily Prayer with Creation’ .
The light dwindles
into the darkness of winter.
It seems so fragile;
but the dark gathers it,
keeps it safe,
helps it to shine.
The life dwindles
into the darkness of earth.
It seems to be lost;
but the dark treasures it,
keeps it rooted,
helps it to rebirth.
The divine dwindles
into the darkness of the womb.
It seems impossible;
but the dark nurtures it,
and the Christ is born
in each of us.
When the dark threatens us,
when the light dazzles us,
when life overwhelms us,
we remember God is with us
in the gentleness of the dark,
the inspiration of the light
and the courage to be who we are.
As we start this new year, may you know the comforting faithfulness of God the father, may you feel the constant companionship of Christ our Lord, and may you hear the encouragement of the Holy Spirit at the end of this year and into the next.
Wishing you a peaceful and blessed 2021