View from the Rectory - November 2017

   THE RECTOR

November culminates in the celebration of Christ the King. Coming immediately before Advent it marks the end of the liturgical year and serves as a reminder that at the end of all things Christ stands victorious as Lord of all.  Such an affirmation of victory might seem misplaced  given that the Church, in our society at least, is in numerical decline.  Some might take issue with this and point to instances of growing churches, yet the overall trend is clear. Since the 1960s church attendance has fallen away sharply and the pattern is a continuing one. Elsewhere, particularly outside of Europe, the percentage of Christians in the population is higher than it’s ever been. The situations couldn’t be more contrasting yet even if the rest of the world shared our plight it should make no difference to the affirmation at the heart of faith. Christ is King and therefore we are a people of hope and rejoicing.  The Christian faith is ironic. Focussed on the cross of Christ it proclaims life in the midst of death, hope in the face of despair and victory in the experience of defeat.  As the Body of Christ our calling is to live faithfully this gospel message of scandalous hope. The celebration of Christ the King is a good opportunity to renew ourselves in this vocation and to look to the future even if the world derides such hope.

In West Parley we are inheritors of a tradition of local worship reaching back to the Middle Ages. This inheritance is not ours to do with as we please.  It is a sacred trust and however challenging the times it is our duty to nurture and develop it for the future.  The list of previous rectors by the porch at All Saints extends back to 1310. It is humbling to  contemplate all those lives and numerous instances of faithful service, all the more so when remembering the countless lay people who served with them, whose names, though treasured by God, are lost to human recall. As we remember them with thanksgiving it is right that we should also give thanks for all that has been accomplished and all that is being accomplished in this current age. Christ has many faithful servants and witnesses in this parish whose giving, both of themselves and of their resources is truly sacrificial. Thank you for all that you do and all that you are. Without your service so generously given our stewardship of the mysteries of Christ would be impossible to sustain. Without your giving, whether from a position of relative privilege or hardship, we would be unable to meet our contributions to the cost of ministry and our independent presence as a parish would cease.  Given that responsibility  for supporting ministry now rests with the parishes our position is seldom comfortable – nor should it be – and it is a matter of good stewardship not to let a deficit situation develop to the point of becoming an insurmountable problem. 

Alongside worship, prayer and the reading of the Scriptures, regular giving is an essential discipline of the Christian life. We give firstly in thanksgiving for what God has given us, life in all its joys and sorrows,  and the promise, revealed in Jesus, of a share in the kingdom that is to come. With this in mind it’s appropriate for all of us to review annually both our level and means of giving. In doing so, questions we might ask ourselves are,   How generous can I be in response to God’s generosity to me? And,   how much do I value the Christian fellowship to which I belong?  In the gospel there is that beautiful story known as The Widow’s Mite. Standing by the Temple Treasury Jesus commended the poor widow whose contribution of a few small pennies amounted to a sacrifice far greater than the larger contributions of those more comfortable than her. I know that we have several people in that situation whose giving is sacrificial and a source of blessing greater than its financial value alone.  Which is why I appeal to those who aren’t in the habit of regular giving to give especial thought to God’s love for you and the life and hope that we share as Christians. As St. Paul said, we are the Body of Christ. Belonging to one another we have a mutual interest in, and responsibility for, the flourishing of all, in the present and for the future, and our giving is a mark of commitment to that purpose. A giving church is a committed church and this does make an impact in the community at large. An early observer of Christianity commented with amazement at the extent of the love that Jesus’ followers had for one another. Such love cannot be ignored. If we abound in that love then we can be confident that God will bless us with a share in his future.     

I urge you to dwell on these words and those of our Treasurer elsewhere in this magazine and to give this matter your most urgent and prayerful consideration.

Charles Booth

 


 


The Rector
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