Vicar's Letter November 2017


Dear Friends,


November is a month for remembering. After all the silliness of “Hallowe'en”, we have All Saints' Day, then All Souls' Day, and then “Remembrance Sunday”. This is a season when we are invited to look back, to remember all those who have gone before us. Of course we need to remember in order to do anything – who is this we're talking to? what does this gadget do? What was it I'm supposed to be doing right now?


Memories can offer inspiration for us to do great things. Or they can allow us to wallow in regrets. We can look at what others have done, and feel bad that we have done less; we can see mistakes that we have made that are not obviously those of our forebears. Or we can be inspired as we look at why those people we remember did so well; give thanks to God for His work in them, and believe therefore that He can do the same in us.


On All Saints Day (always 1st November) or on the corresponding All Saints' Sunday (5th November this year) we remember those who have been recognised by the Church as those through whom God has worked in a special or unusual way. We remember, in other words, the heroes of our tradition of Christianity, the first people who proclaimed and spread the Good News: those who brought that Good News to certain parts of the world, such as the outpost island known as Britain, populated by “Angels”; those who even gave up their lives to proclaim their faith in Jesus Christ. Let's not waste our time on regrets that there are few saints seen around nowadays, or that we find ourselves unable to live up to their standard. Let all that they did (in spite of their many failings which are not hidden), inspire us to recognise that it is God who enables saint-hood, and that He can do just the same for, through and in us, as He did for St. Francis or St. Peter or St. Cyr.


Right from the start, the church has had a problem with keeping All Saints' Day, with acknowledging the saint-hood of particular people. The Greek word agios just means holy one and the word is used in the New Testament for the most ordinary members of the early Church, not just for special apostles and prophets, and also for the angels. So what should we say about “the others” when we acknowledge particular individuals as saints? There are many members of Christ's Church not on that list, but who, we trust, are on the list of the chosen inhabitants of heaven. “All Souls' Day” gives us an opportunity to remember them, to give thanks, and to know we are joined with them – with all God's people – in prayer and worship. We can go on mourning, without hope, or we can rejoice in what we believe God has prepared for each one of us. We need to express our regret, but we need much more to draw inspiration for our future. At St. Cyr's, we will have our memorial service for the recently departed. If you haven't received a personal invitation and want a particular name remembered, please let me know.


Remembrance Sunday looks specifically towards those who have been killed in the course of war. We face the same tension here between regret and inspiration.  Remembrance can be hijacked by political agendas which seek not genuine peace and justice, but dominance of Britain over the rest of the world. At the other end of the political spectrum, it is just as sad to hear our Armed Forces denigrated and abused. As we remember on Remembrance Sunday, I hope we are acknowledging the sacrifices that people made following orders given with the good intention of establishing peace and concord between nations. It is a sad indictment of humankind, that war sometimes seems to us the only way to a better world; but let those of us who have never taken part in a war not be hesitant about our gratitude and praise for those who have died in the best service they could offer to their country and ours. Especially let us not forget those who have faced more recent conflicts in places far from these shores. At the going down of the sun, and in the morning, We will remember them. And inspired by those memories, we will together make this world a better place.


“Do this,” said Jesus, “in remembrance of me.”

That is the ultimate remembering required of Christians. Not memories of a long dead man who set standards to which we can barely aspire. Not memories to be used against other groups with different understandings and views from our own. But memories that stir us up to believe in the future, which is in God's hands, not ours; memories shared with saints of long ago and the souls of all who have gone before us; memories which inspire us to believe that, with Jesus Christ not a distant memory but still present with us, we are indeed part of the kingdom of God our Father.

Charles Minchin