This summer has been something of a watershed for us. I’m not referring to the weather while we were in Wales, which was actually very kind considering the forecast! But alongside the near completion of the process considering our request for a 3-year extension, there have been life-changing exam results for one daughter, a move and the start of a new job for the other, and the end of an era for my Mum’s home near Gloucester. We have been able to celebrate with family meals and walks and a visit to Stratford for our 30th Wedding Anniversary. There was much to be thankful for.
One of the most memorable days of our summer was a day out at the Glass Festival at Stourbridge. There were demonstrations of traditional glass-blowing and engraving, together with descriptions of the industrial process and exhibitions of work. Many times I had walked blindly past my parents’ display cabinets containing cut-glass bowls, tumblers and vases, too precious to use yet not drawing attention for their aesthetic impact. In clearing their house I’d been happy to see the glassware go. But having seen the skill of the endeavour in the making, I had acquired a new vocabulary in appreciating something that I had treated with indifference.
Listening to the conversations of those outside church circles, I realise there is a strong parallel with the relationship they have with church. In walking down Broad St passed the glass-fronted Methodist Church, folk are left untouched (despite the best efforts of our wayside pulpit). There isn’t an inkling of the ultimate price paid that they might discover the truth that is shared behind those windows, still less the thought that an encounter with that truth can be the critical watershed moment in anyone’s life.
It’s no-one’s fault that the connection isn’t made, except perhaps ours, if we don’t tell our story that they might discover the vocabulary to appreciate the beauty we behold – in short, that they might discover that they are valued and loved by God, who gave His only Son that we might truly live.
What opportunities will we have in this new Church Year to spread the language of God’s love by sharing our story? How ready are we?
Happy New Church Year
Firstly a huge thank you to all who supported Stella and I (with our friend Mark) through sponsorship and prayers and good wishes for our bike ride from Ludlow to St David’s. Enjoying stunning views along the way, we completed the ride of 159 miles with 13,900 ft of climbing over 2 days. Ruth Henley was with us for the first day, doing extremely well despite having had little time to train.
We were blessed with superb weather – dry but not too hot, and a very welcome North-Easterly wind, confounding the wisdom of those who thought we should have gone in the opposite direction!
The climbing on the second day was very hard and really slowed us down. Time and again we climbed steeply and at a snail’s pace (occasionally, it has to be said, on foot!) out of one village, only to face a fast descent to the next village, ready for another climb.
At one stage I was quite sure we wouldn’t make it to our destination, especially when locals wagged their heads in disbelief when they learned where we were heading, and the news came that the Youth Hostel would close at 9pm. But after one more particularly arduous climb, the ride levelled off and we were able to take advantage of the wind to make real progress, finally arriving at the hostel at 8.55pm, after 12 hours cycling. God is good!
Could this be an image of our life and journey of faith? There are stiff climbs and scary descents, low times and doubts, times when it’s hard to see a way out. We might think we oughtn’t to feel that way – that we should mask what’s going on inside, adding guilt to our feelings of despondency. Scripture doesn’t airbrush those times out. There’s a passage in John 6 when Jesus’ teaching is too hard and many disciples desert him. Jesus wonders whether the Twelve too would leave and Peter responds “Lord to whom shall we go?” (hardly a ringing endorsement!), adding “We believe and know that you are the Holy one of God.” (John 6.68)
Sometimes we may want to give up, take the train home, retreating inwardly from anything else that might challenge us. At those times we need to just keep pedalling, not listening to the voices of doom, but believing and trusting in the Holy One of God who is still there even though we might have lost sight of him.