Saturday, 21 January 2012

Candlemas - Looking Back/Looking Forward

I am writing this just after we have celebrated the Feast of the Epiphany and you will be reading it around the Feast of the Presentation of Christ in the Temple, sometimes known as Candlemas. Both occasions’ worship seek to remind us of Jesus as the Saviour of the whole world.

In the recent past, the Church of England has recaptured the importance of Candlemas, which falls on February 2nd but we will have celebrated it on 29th January. It has been made a Principal Feast.  ”A what?!” I hear you cry.

In short, Candlemas now has the same standing and importance as Christmas and Easter. It’s one of the ‘big days’ in the church’s calendar and our worshipping life together.

Candlemas is a high point in the church’s year. At the end of the service we process with lit candles in semi-darkness to the font.  Recalling our own presentation to God at our Baptism, we hear Simeon’s song of praise, the Nunc Dimittis:

Lord, now you let your servant go in peace;
Your word has been fulfilled.
My eyes have seen the salvation
You have prepared in the sight of every people,
A light to reveal you to the nations and the glory of your people, Israel.

Gathered at the font, we formally end our celebrations of the birth of Christ and look forward to His Passion.

Candlemas is a high point because from here we look back to Christmas but we also look forward to what lies ahead of us during Lent, Holy Week and Easter.

After six months as your priest, together we look back with thanksgiving for what has been, that has been good and Godly, that has got us individually and together to this point. I hope we also look forward with anticipation to all that lies ahead of us together with God.

By the time you read this, we will be part way through a consultation about our pattern of worship - namely how, where and when we worship together across the parish. I promised you when I arrived that we would talk and pray about changes when they came and this is one such time.

Over the last 6 months I have become all too aware that we cannot worship together at the moment without me clock-watching to dash off to lead another service somewhere else.  This deprives you the opportunity to talk to me and raise things with me and it prevents us having the opportunity to spend just as important time for a while after worship getting to know one another better.

Also on 2 Sundays out of any given 4 I cannot be in 2 places at once - I cannot lead worship at two places at once at 9.00am. Also, some Sundays I am leading 4 Services, sometimes 5 and this is just not sustainable by one priest.

During this consultation period, we will try to discern a pattern of worshipping life that meets our needs and is providable by me. I have ideas as to how we could do this, but I don’t have all of the answers and I will not just drive through what I want. We are Christ’s church here together and we will seek a way forward together.

None of us like change, and perhaps especially in things that matter to to us, but I hope that you see the need to look at these matters afresh.

If you have ideas as to how we can have a pattern of worship on Sundays across the parish that I can provide, I would like to hear from you. We will have a period of consultation regarding this matter which will run from 14th January-18th March 2012. If you have any suggestions as to how we can worship together in the churches of the parish with me leading you, and build up our friendships and community together, please let me know by letter or email only.

In the meantime please do continue to pray for me and each other as we look forward where God is leading us.

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