A View From The Vicarage, January 2017
I do hope that as you read this, you’re still enjoying your Christmas celebrations. I’ve lost count of the number of people over the years, who have asked me after Boxing Day if I had a good Christmas Day. For me, and I’m sure for you as well Christmas doesn’t end until the Feast of the Epiphany on January 6th, so do keep enjoying Christmas up until January, 6th.
For me this year that date is significant because, of course, the night before will mark my first year as Vicar of these Parishes (it is only a year I hear you ask!). One of the most abiding memories in my mind over these past almost 12 months is how grateful Jean and myself have been by the sincere welcome that we’ve received from so many people in our communities both from within the Church families but equally from those who might regard themselves as being outside them. The warm, spontaneous way someone, who is clearly “a blow in”, as I am, has been welcomed has been a truly humbling and deeply gratifying experience.
It strikes me that “welcome” is an integral part of what it means to be a Christian as Christ’s words from St. Mathew’s Gospel Chapter 25 are there to remind us, "Then the righteous will answer him, "Lord, when was it that we saw you hungry and gave you food, or thirsty and gave you something to drink? And when was it that we saw you a stranger and welcomed you, or naked and gave you clothing? And when was it that we saw you sick or in prison and visited you?" And the king will answer them, "Truly I tell you, just as much as you did it to one of the least of these who are members of my family, you did it to me."
In those words the righteous are applauded for their actions – going out to reach out the hand of friendship, support and welcome to the marginalised and the excluded. To show the love of Christ in what we are and what we do as much as in what we say.
Some years ago now, long before I was ordained, I attended a Church, somewhat briefly, where the only person who ever spoke to me was the Vicar; the rest just sat and stared at me! I’m delighted that that is not and could not be true of any of our Churches here. But we mustn’t be complacent, as we embark on yet another year in the aftermath of the European Referendum now over six months ago and the extremely disturbing rise in racist incidents which came in it’s wake. Let us all resolve to welcome in our communities both those who have been here for generations alongside the more recent arrivals for not only is that the Christian way to behave, but all of those who live here bring their own individual gifts and talents. Surely the best communities are those which celebrate the gifts of all their members. You may not bring gold, frankincense and myrrh but if you bring yourself and your neighbours whoever or whatever they are then all of our gifts are surely far more precious! Welcome to 2017!
With my love and prayers for the new year and beyond.