Many thanks to everyone who helped decorate the churches of the Benefice for Holy Week and Easter.
They looked great, as always. Thanks also to everyone who helped organise the extra activities and services during this special time in the Christian year. This is also a good time to express appreciation to all the people who work throughout the year to keep our churches in good shape and welcoming, peaceful places as people often write in the visitor’s books.
In the Church calendar, each Spring, as the daffodils glow orange, yellow, white and gold in the sunshine and bob gently in the breeze, (f they are not covered in snow, or rendered horizontal by the rain, wind and hail) there is an annual focus on the story of Jesus. The story told by those who lived with him or experienced his ministry, of his extraordinary charisma, wisdom, humility, gentle strength and commitment to others. A story which culminated in his death on Good Friday, faithful and sustained by love, and his Resurrection on Easter day demonstrating God’s faithfulness and love for all of us, in all life’s challenges and complexity, joys and sorrows. Implicit in the story and its retelling at Easter, is a renewed invitation to join in or return to the adventure of following Jesus in his way of love, generosity, kindness, encouragement and peace.
The poet Gerard Manley Hopkins described the return, revisiting the connection to the sacred as “aftering,” “seconding,” ‘over-and-overing”. Hopkins felt times of alienation from God recorded in poems such as a sonnet, “I wake and feel the fell of dark.” His sense of return was often prompted by beauty in creation, beauty which surrounds us on Exmoor.
Whether the sense of absence from God is as stark as Hopkins experienced or a more gently unnoticed drift away, the invitation to return, to revisit the sacred is always there. There is a special focus at Easter but the purpose of the churches is to offer a year round reminder of the invitation to return and the welcome we will receive. Returning we will be different and our retrieved connection will be informed by extra life experience and by new understanding. The book of the prophet Isaiah contains the wonderful words:
In returning and rest we shall be saved; in quietness and trust shall be our strength
The Lord waits to be gracious to us; happy are those who wait with him.
The Benefice Quiz is at the Sportsman’s Inn, Sandyway as usual this year on Friday 12th May, 7 for 7.30pm. I hope to see you there or out and about across Exmoor.
With best wishes and prayers. David Weir