At Christmas, we mark the birth of Christ. Increasingly, I am beginning to wonder if in the Church of England, we have started to re-enact the birth of Christ?
The Mhinisteir is coming under pressure to cancel the Sunday services on boxing day. The reason given is people will be tired after Christmas! I am gobsmacked!
I am appalled that some churches are doing away with their Sunday services on boxing day this year. Sadly, they have bought into the Christmas frenzy and have started re-enacting the birth of Christ.
According to Canons of the Church of England, there is to be at least one holy communion service in a parish church on a Sunday unless you have special permission like during the time of the first lockdown.
God willing, I plan to go to the service on Christmas day to mark the birth of Christ and I will go to the Sunday service the next day because it is required of me to keep the sabbath day holy.
On Sunday in Church, one of the hymns that we sang was On Jordan’s Bank the Baptist cry; unfortunately for me, during the singing my mind wondered to a certain scene in Yes, Prime Minister!! In that particular episode, a former prime minister suddenly dies of a heart attack and a state funeral had to be organised.
In that scene, a Jordanian official in his national attire approaches Sir Humphrey Appleby who was the Prime Minister’s cabinet secretary. The following conversation ensued:
Jordanian official: Sir Humphrey, I have just seen this order of service for tomorrow. This hymn. It is deeply embarrassing.
Sir Humphrey: “On Jordan’s Bank, The Baptist’s Cry”? Why?
Jordanian official: Did you not know that the Jordan Bank went bust yesterday?
Many many years ago, the Mhinisteir and I were on holiday in Spain round about this time of the year. It was my first visit to Spain. I was not sure what to make of it as there were Brits everywhere! If that was not enough, every other cafe served all day English breakfast! I love a good cooked breakfast but just not in Spain!😁
One of the first things that we do whenever we arrive on foreign soil is to make sure we find out if there is an English speaking church so that we can go there for Sunday worship. The Mhinisteir found out that there was a fellowship that met in a local hotel on Sunday evenings.
The Sunday evening came and we excitedly walked to the hotel. Upon entering the hotel, we saw a lady from the fellowship with a signboard in English which we found so useful. The service was held in one of the hotel’s ballroom. When we arrived there, we got a very warm welcome. There were about 30 of us mainly holidaymakers. The service was led by a husband and wife team with lots of quotes from the Daily Mail! In some ways, it felt like as if we never left the country!
After the service, just as we were planning a quick exit, the wife came up to us and asked if she could pray for us. She said that she felt that God was asking her to do it and that it had something to do with our imminent future. Before I continue the story, I must stress that this fellowship was run by Charismatic Evangelicals whereas we are high church. Anyway, the Mhinisteir gave her the go ahead and so she placed her hands on both our heads and she said a heartfelt prayer. She might have spoken in tongues for a bit but I can’t remember as I was so nervous. By the way, she didn’t know ANYTHING about us especially the Mhinisteir’s occupation as that can sometimes put people off.
Fast forward to six months later, The Mhinisteir and I had very unexpectedly moved for him to start his incumbency in a Church in a different area! Needless to say that we never forgot this experience.
If God could speak to Balaam through his donkey (Numbers 22:28-31) then this experience should not have come as a shock to me but it did.
Last week, as I sat in my study listening to the BBC world service on the radio, I found myself listening to excerpts of Young Miss T’s speech that was given in Italy. I am not a fan of young Miss T. I find her to be shouty, rude and blah blah blah! I know I am in the minority for young Miss T has been elevated to godlike status by both politicians and religious leaders.
As a Christian, I do not worship the creation instead I worship the creator and because of that I have a duty to care for all that God has created including the environment. I am not an eco warrior but I make a conscious effort to care for the environment in the way I live my life. I am not a vegetarian but here in the Vicarage we only buy organic or free range meat. We use the services of a milkman who brings our organic milk in a glass bottle. I recycle as much as possible and try to buy refillable packs where possible. We don’t make unnecessary foreign trips. Most importantly, I believe in keeping the Sabbath day holy where everyone and everything gets a rest. I hasten to add that my idea of a Sabbath rest is very different to that of strict Sabbatarians. You can read about it here.
In March 2020, during the first lockdown here in the UK , everything came to a standstill. During that period people reported of sightings of birds and animals that had disappeared years ago! People in the cities also talked about hearing birdsong for the first time ever.
Young Miss T is….. young😁 and therefore probably doesn’t realise that life is very complicated. For some people in the world, where they get their next meal is more important than the environment. The environment is just one of the many many issues that a world leader has to grapple with.
It is good important to raise awareness but obsession is unhealthy.
I always look forward to going to church on a Sunday but sadly not this weekend. I am nervous. Very nervous. Since freedom day, things have gone awry. Covid cases are going up and up. Among other chaos, shops and supermarkets are struggling to keep the stores open.
For myself, I am just not ready to be without a mask or have someone sit immediately next to me in Church or anywhere for that matter. I am also nervous for the Mhinisteir. He has a wedding tomorrow and I dread to think how folk will behave.
The disappointing thing is that among the folk in our umpteen parishes, I am among a very tiny minority who feels this way! The rest are clamouring for the full works including singing without masks!
As I entered our ancient church building for Sunday service, there was a certain buzz in the air. Rural churches are usually more OAP heavy and there tend to be more women than men. Our churches aren’t any different. We do have a handful of young people but they were not in church yesterday. I quickly gathered that the reason for the buzz was obviously the football match later that evening. I was very surprised as I wasn’t expecting that at all.
Since moving to England, I have never come across such excitement in church but then England have never qualified to the final of a men’s football tournament in many years.
I have never experienced this in Scotland either albeit for a different reason. There the people that I encountered in church felt that they shouldn’t be talking about “unholy” things on the Sabbath. Sadly, it was difficult to get them to talk about sports on other days too. The men I knew loved football. Rangers to be precise but felt that they couldn’t declare their love for football. I think it is very sad when one has to suppress their feelings in order to be religious! No wonder the heathen thinks that the God of the bible is a monster!
Anyway, back to our parishioners….. There was a 90 year old lady who was wearing England’s colour (Red and White). She looked so cute!!! In fact, there were quite a few of the ladies in red and white. I spoilt the party by turning up in something totally different!!!!!
Sadly, England lost the game but I will remember 11 July 2021 for a very long time because of the lovely buzz that I experienced in church that Sunday!!!!
One of the advantages of not having a television is that one gets more time to do other things, in my case it is to read.
Here in the Vicarage, we get the Daily Telegraph, Financial Times, Church Times, Sunday Times, Private Eye and Le Monde Diplomatique. The one most common theme in these newspapers/magazines is burnout particularly here in the United Kingdom.
The lockdown especially the first one brought some relief to some but the problem that is burnout is raising its head again. Working from home during the pandemic has exacerbated things for most people. There are no boundaries. Bosses expect their employees to be at their beck and call at ALL times since they are working from home. Recently when the Mhinisteir was visiting a bank, the teller told him that because they have done away with call centres in India, she has to do the job of a call centre worker on top of her usual duties!
We no longer have rest days like the olden days when Sunday was a day of rest. They still do in certain parts of Scotland especially the Highlands and in some countries that I have visited like Germany and France where shops are shut. Did you know that even shops like Tesco, Boots etc close on Sundays in certain parts of Scotland?? I for one firmly believe that we need to reclaim our day of rest. Sunday trading laws have been most unhelpful.
I am not at all suggesting that we all start going to church. As a Christian, It will be great if we did but I also believe that God gives us the freedom to choose our way of life.
By the way, if you plan to go to church on a Sunday, I would personally recommend a BCP service! It will be a great start to your Sunday!
I am not even suggesting that we shouldn’t watch television, wash our dishes etc like some strict Sabbatarians do. All I am suggesting is that we try and do things that we don’t do the other six days of the week. Make Sundays special like meeting up with family, cooking a nice Sunday lunch, going for walks or just catching up on sleep/reading. Initially it will be a bit strange but maybe not too strange because that is what we were doing during our first lockdown! Once you have reclaimed your day of rest, you would not want to look back again.
Could this be the answer to the problem that is burnout?
My Sundays are spent in church, usually twice, once in the morning and once in the evening for evensong. Since we are not allowed to sing, evensong has been replaced by evening prayer.
There is an earlier service but I prefer to go to the 11am service.
In Scotland, most church services start at 11am and I like that. I find 9.30am a bit too early. People in rural areas find that it is too early too. Why do they have it at that time then??? Sundays are meant to be a day of rest for goodness sake!
In one of the cities that we lived, the BCP (Book of Common Prayer) service was at 8am! Being a BCP person, I had to force myself to get ready for the 8am service. Sadly there were only a handful of us but I don’t think the time was a key factor in the poor turnout.
Thankfully because of Covid19, all services now resemble BCP services!!! Long may it continue!!!
There were two stories in the newspaper that caught my attention this week. One is that Standard Life Aberdeen is to be/has already been rebranded as “Abrdn” (to be pronounced as “Aberdeen”). Why create unnecessary confusion and bother?
The second is that Wimbledon is to do away with the mid-tournament “Sunday Rest”. The reason given is that the advances in watering technology and grass maintenance mean that the courts could withstand the full 14 day schedule. Really?
Did the Sunday Rest not come about because of our country’s Christian heritage in keeping the Sabbath day holy?
This reminded me of a story that I heard many many years ago. It is about a Hindu priest in a temple in India. There was a stray cat in his temple that was a menace bothering the worshippers who came to the temple. Out of desperation, the priest tied the cat to a pole. The priest died and a new priest took over at the temple. One day the cat died. Can you guess what the new priest did? He went to buy a new cat and tie it up the same pole!