The Vicar’s Letter – September 2019

Dear friends,

The school holidays are coming to an end. Many will have had time off or time away with family. Grandparents will have looked after grandchildren and other children will have been on clubs and camps. The summer, even with its high volume of rain during August, will have given opportunity to think through life from a slightly different vantage point. Not everyone will have had time off; some choosing time outside the school holidays and many, probably not so far away, just unable to afford to get away.

Taking time out is vitally important to our lives. We live in a culture which demands more and more of us and many of us work hard precisely so that we can enjoy time off. Because holidays are anticipated with so much expectation means that there is also much to lose if things don’t go right. Again our frantic existence doesn’t leave much contingency time. Often we only slow down if we are forced to by our health, the health of loved ones or by a bereavement.

God, however, hasn’t created us as human ‘doings’, but human ‘beings.’ Yet our culture generally gives more value to what we do than who we are. Christians are reminded to ask: am I living with God’s rhythm and am I living in a way which is in tune with the environment in which we live? These two questions should make us stop and think because for most of us, if we are honest with ourselves, know that our current ways of doing life are not healthy for us or our planet.

Over the summer I have been incredibly fortunate to have a three-month sabbatical. As I mentioned back in my May letter, sabbaticals are routed in scripture and are given to be a time of restoration; for rest, relaxation, for retreat and for personal reflection. The challenge for me is how do I live and work differently in light of a significant time away; an opportunity to view my life, my family, my work through a different lens.

I have been reading a book called emotionally healthy spirituality by American pastor, Peter Scazzero and he focuses not on work-life balance per se, but on faith-life balance. He commends seeking a slower pace of life, not so much to have more recreational time, but so that our lives can be permeated by God’s presence. He recommends that our lives should have foundations of solitude, stillness, scripture meditation and prayer and that we have a good rhythm of sabbath rest built into our weekly, monthly and yearly cycles. Who manages that I hear you cry! This is not easy because much in our society bleeds us dry, but if we begin to intentionally put these habits into practice, we will find that they will be transformative.

I will be trying to live a different way of life so you will no doubt hear and see more in the coming months, but I do commend living life with a different focus and adapted priorities. Don’t just let the ‘rest’ of summer holidays be a thing that we leave in the past, but let’s find new and innovative ways of incorporating into our present.

As I sign off can I say a big thank you to all those who have played a part in keeping St Mary’s going in my absence as we continue to offer life, hope and faith to our community. Can I particularly thank John, Val, Becky and Joyce, my lay-readers Lizzie and Mary, and the retired clergy, Chris, Barry, Malcolm and Graham.

Looking forward to seeing you all soon

Alastair