Sunday, 28 November 2010

Christmas starts here? - Advent certainly does

"Christmas starts here" was the strap-line advertising yesterday's village event in Shotley Bridge - community meets business and charity benefits. We moved our own "Christmas Fair" to fit in with the big day which began with the arrival of Father Christmas (in Victorian horse and carriage) and ended with the switching on of the village Christmas tree lights.

A sleigh with reindeer would have been a far more appropriate vehicle for Santa. We're in the grip of ice and snow - and I'd thought we would have cause to regret moving the Fair to this weekend. Getting everything running certainly took determination and hard work on the part of many - church, hall and vicarage are half-way up a one in seven hill and the one-way approach is one in five at its steepest. But it worked. It seems that people took the hint from the weather, abandoned hopes of taking their cars to the MetroCentre or Newcastle for Christmas shopping and stayed local. Fortunately it was the right sort of snow - not slushy but quite dry and with the right kind of grip underfoot - and that made it easier for people to walk up or down Church Bank and drop into the Hall.

Anyway - a great day... More snow fell overnight, and I found myself unsurprised by a congregation of zero at 8a.m. But over 40 ventured out for the 10a.m. Eucharist. A good-sized contingent should now be making our way to Durham for the Cathedral's Advent Procession - but the snow is falling again, my only way out would be dangerous if not impossible and I haven't heard from anyone that they might be going to take a chance. So, our apologies...

I reflected on yesterday's events when I preached this morning - with the urgency of the Christmas Fair out of the way, now we can perhaps find the space to tackle Advent! Click the link and play with the sidebar to make the text appear in the window. And you can find Rosie Junemann's sermon for Christ the King here - sorry about the delay in posting.

For more pictures from yesterday's celebrations, click here. Keep warm!

Sunday, 14 November 2010

Silence and Remembrance

I've just come in  from our village Act of Remembrance - a rather chilly affair this year, but numbers hold up with Deputy Lord Lieutenant, County Councillors, Air Cadets, British Legion members and the clergy of local Churches in attendance. A number of them would have been at the civic ceremony at the Cenotaph in Consett two miles up the hill. Ours is a more intimate affair - and the best thing is the nature of the Memorial at which it takes place: a short row of houses built after the First World War. The names of those who died in battle are recorded in a panel on the wall of one of the houses, but it's the houses which themselves are the memorial.

And isn't that right? At the Eucharist this morning where we had a separate Act of Remembrance at the two memorials which commemorate the fallen of the whole parish - not just Shotley Bridge village - we ignored the Lectionary's direction that Church of England parishes should read from the prophet Malachi, instead to use RCL's reading from Isaiah. And this is why:

The prophet Isaiah in his vision of a peaceable Kingdom (Isaiah 65.17-25) writes:

They shall build houses and inhabit them;
they shall plant vineyards and eat their fruit.
They shall not build and another inhabit;
they shall not plant and another eat;
for like the days of a tree shall the days of my people be,
and my chosen shall long enjoy the work of their hands.

Hope is in building, says the prophet. Always we face the challenge, what is it that we wish to build?

More about this in my homily, which you can find by clicking here.

And (since I haven't blogged for so long), here at last is what Rosie Junemann, our Reader, had to say when she preached for the Feast of All Saints, two weeks ago.

The picture is of the Abbey of Monte Cassino from the Commonwealth War Graves Cemetery in the town below.