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On Remembrance Sunday this year there will be in Hauxton a particular poignancy to the acts of Remembrance.
Two of the road names for the new Hauxton Meadows development will be Ayres Drive and Mead Avenue. Both the Mead families, in the First World War, and the Ayres family, in the Second, lost relatives in these conflicts. Indeed the only two Second World War names on the Hauxton War Memorial, which earlier this year became a listed structure, are those of the Ayres brothers, sons of the then Churchwarden at St Edmund’s. These names, forgotten by all but a few of the oldest families still living in Hauxton, are now given a new vitality by the naming of the roads.
The main road through the Hauxton Meadows development will be called St Edmund’s Way, named after our Church in Hauxton.
Chapel Lane, Church Road, Church Street, St Edmund’s Way: important names from the history of our two villages and important names too for the holding together of the past with the present and future.
The Gospels tell us of vital roads, roads of life. There is the road from Nazareth to Bethlehem, where Christ was born. There is the road from Jerusalem to Jericho, where, Christ said, the Good Samaritan gave help to the traveller who fell among thieves. ‘Who is my neighbour?’ ‘The person whom you can help’. There is the road from Jerusalem to Emmaus on which the Risen Christ came on the first Easter Day bringing profound joy to His two dispirited followers.
New life; caring and compassion; joy.
That is the challenge for our Churches: to show that they are not simply a part of a label attached to bricks and tarmac but offer new life, caring and compassion, joy. They are a key part not only of the history of our villages but of the present and the future too.
Ralph Waldo Emerson: ‘What lies behind us and what lies before us are tiny matters compared to what lies within us’.
Two of the villages in our Benefice are both looking back and looking forward at this present time.
In Harston, the Local History Group is engaging the villagers with ‘times past’, both with regard to the history and background of certain buildings and also more especially with the memories of some of the older residents who have lived here most, or all, of their lives. This is at heart an invitation to share and to listen and to appreciate more deeply both where we live and the lives of those around us.
Hauxton is very much facing the challenge of the future as the building work has now started on the land that is now to be called Hauxton Meadows. The material relating to the sale of the new houses refers to Hauxton as ‘a small village with a strong sense of community spirit….rising to the challenge of growth in the 21st century’.
People with many different views on faith and on community are involved in these developments and will, therefore, look on them and engage with them in different ways.
One way is a Christian perspective. A recently published, and well-illustrated, book by Margaret Silf is called Sacred in the City: seeing the Spiritual in the every day. The aim of the book is to invite us to see our home towns and villages with a new vision. She invites us to explore the place with ‘open eyes and an awakened heart and enjoy all it has to show you’ so as to see its ‘divine light’ and hear its ‘eternal song’.
Divine light and eternal song.
The suggestion is that we prayerfully look at, for example, where we live, where we work, where and how we travel, the people whom we meet, the environment and the lives around us, as opportunities to connect more deeply and to listen more closely to what God is inviting us to be and do in our two villages and in our lives at this time.
COUNTING DOWN IN LENT
We know that there will be a General Election at the beginning of May 2015 and already the countdown for that has begun. There will be an intensification of party political debate, particularly once Parliament is dissolved, probably at the end of March. Manifestos, party political broadcasts, polls and predicted outcomes will dominate more and more of the domestic news. The parties will hope to use the time between now and then in such a way as to persuade us to vote for them.
For part of that time, from Ash Wednesday on the 18th of February until the day before Easter Day on the 5th of April, Christians will be observing Lent. In many ways, the season of Lent may be regarded as a countdown to Holy Week and Easter.
It is a time that lasts forty days (more if the Sundays are included) and the traditional disciplines on which we should focus are fasting, charitable giving and increased time of prayer and reflection. All of these are forms of generosity towards God and towards neighbour. The forty days of Lent provide the time for us to think in a sustained and deepening way on why this generosity of spirit is so important.
So, Lent is not a form of super-diet, although some may find it helpful as a form of spiritual ‘de-tox’.The aim of Lent is not simply about making oneself miserable by staying away from one’s favourite food. Lent has a much wider vision. Isaiah 58 is a passage of Scripture often read in Lent. There we find the warning against fasting as a form of self-interest. This is a passage that invites us into a deeper reflection on the need for ‘the fast’ to be one that loosens the bonds of injustice; to be one that provides food for the hungry and shelter for the ‘poor wanderer’ , a phrase with many layers of meaning. All of the matters mentioned by Isaiah can be pursued by, for example: seeking a charity to support, where that is feasible; or by befriending a neighbour in need; or by prayer; or perhaps, where possible, by making more time for family and friends.
As we prepare to celebrate the Resurrection of Christ, we recall that He came to give us life in all its fullness [St John 10: 10]. Through the practice of the Lenten disciplines, we seek liberation from the things that might hinder us in experiencing that gift and that might hinder us in sharing that gift with others.
With love and prayers
The Crowning of the Year
Psalm 65, a Harvest Psalm, contains the well-known lines, addressed to God: ‘You crown the year with your goodness [or bounty]’. Keats described autumn as the ‘season of mists and mellow fruitfulness’.
‘The crowning of the year’ is a lovely phrase and it is appropriate that Christians then turn to God in thanksgiving for His gifts. Gratitude for what we have received, however, carries with it responsibilities with regard to what others lack. Christ reminds us that what we withhold from the hungry we withhold from Him.
The Cambridge City Food bank up-date of August 2014 records that during the financial year 2013-14 3,046 adults and 1,664 children were fed, marking an 85% increase on 2012-13. These figures entail the distribution of 41, 099 kilograms of food, a notable act of generosity across the spectrum of all faiths and none. From April of this year the figures for the people who have been fed are 681 and 362 respectively. That food bank is but one charity. There are many others that are supported.
The word ‘charity’ now often carries a lot of negative baggage but it is originally another word for love, a love that holds others dear to one’s heart. St Paul, writing to the Corinthians of the divine love that we should model, reminds us that of faith, hope and charity or love, the greatest of these is love. Thanksgiving and love belong together.
Christians believe that not only the time of the crowning of the year but the whole course of the year belongs to God. The month of November sees us move from ripeness and maturity to decay. Thomas Hood wrote of November in a way that laid emphasis on the first two letters of the month: ‘No sun--no moon! /No morn--no noon!/No dawn--no dusk--- no proper time of day/……No shade, no shine, no butterflies, no bees/ No fruits, no flowers, no leaves, no birds/ November!’
Yes, November is the time of remembrance and recollection of loss, loss of people whom we love and loss in the world of nature. Falling poppies and candles of remembrance lit in love, however, give a lustre to November that will yield in turn to the lights of Advent as we await the Light that comes into the world at Christmas.
On the 16th of June each year the Church of England remembers a thirteenth century Bishop of Chichester who died in 1253. He is known as Richard of Chichester.
Forty years ago the musical Godspell made more widely known his already well-loved prayer.
The following words are at the heart of the prayer, although over the centuries the prayer’s wording has changed quite considerably: ‘O most merciful Redeemer, Friend and Brother, may I know Thee more clearly, love Thee more dearly and follow Thee more nearly, day by day’.
It is the rhyming of the words clearly, dearly and nearly that has perhaps made the prayer so memorable but its substance is profoundly important. The prayer itself beautifully brings together various strands of discipleship.
People may choose to seek to know, love and follow Christ in many different ways. These include study of the Scriptures, prayer, worship and Holy Communion. In addition, many also seek to live out what is called the social Gospel. In St Matthew, chapter 25, Christ speaks of us serving Him though our care and commitment to the needy, the marginalised and the neglected. Following the active or social Gospel should help to nourish our prayers and study and worship; in turn prayers, study and worship should nourish the living out of the social Gospel.
The Prime Minister, in an article in The Church Times just before Easter, started a long and still continuing debate about the extent to which this country is a Christian country. Some of his words have been overlooked or not fully reported. He wrote: ‘..the Christian values of responsibility, hard work, charity, compassion, humility and love are shared by people of every faith and none…’.
is a Chr-height:normal">It is important that that is indeed stated and fully appreciated.
It is also important that those of us who would call ourselves Christian seek to engage with Christ and with those values more clearly, more dearly and more nearly.