Rt Rev Mark Rylands, the Bishop of Shrewsbury, has announced...
So how was your Christmas? Mine was extremely taxing. I felt the force of Paul’s words to Corinth: ‘We are not competent of ourselves to claim anything as coming from us; our competence is from God’.
Facing a 36 hour power cut and the misery surrounding that in the village yet seeing to services going as best they could with no mikes, heat and barely any light taxed me to the limit but I sensed the provision of ‘grace under pressure’. It was good to see 450 folk at the four Christmas services with wartime resilience leaving cold candlelit homes for a cold candlelit church.
Christmas always brings me the round of pastoral visiting of the more isolated, sometimes with Holy Communion, and this year the visits were very challenging. Elderly people facing days of cold - we have no gas in the village and oil heating needs electric - needed help, often provided by neighbours but many went for days to relatives with electricity. A priest takes joy in the Feast of God’s love showing its face towards us and I was aware of joy around me in St Giles, cheerfulness in overcoming the logistical nightmare, but it was an altogether draining business. Coming home after four services to a very beautiful yet cold salad for Christmas lunch was a first! Blessed Mother Teresa said ‘it’s not how much we do but how much love we put into the action’. I fear my services didn’t come across as so wholehearted. What impressed me though was the love and care abroad in the village throughout our cold Christmas as well as the forbearance in our church teams as they partnered a grumpy, croaking priest! Christmas in the end is about receiving love. That I received - both in the Blessed Sacrament and from my fellows - and I did my best to give out.
I think TS Eliot has it when he says: ‘For us there is only the trying. The rest is not our business.’
I did try!