Thank you all for the warm welcome that you offered me when I came back from my sabbatical leave towards the end of the school summer term! I’m very grateful to (our sadly now erstwhile Assistant Curate) Michael Fox, and to (the erstwhile Rural Dean of Macclesfield!) Canon Taffy Davies, for standing in for me here in caring for our parish and our deanery respectively, and to Revd Dr Gary Bowness for covering several funerals for Bollington parishioners over recent months. My warm thanks also go to Canon Roy, Beverley, Brian and Anne who continued to offer their well-honed skills in pastoral care, preaching and leading worship both at St Oswald’s and at Mount Hall Nursing Home during my leave of absence.
The first six weeks of my time away was spent in the beautiful setting of Venice. I was very pleased to be joined there by a whole series of friends and family who came over for several days at a time to share the “rooms with a view” which I had rented on the Venetian island of Guidecca. Welcoming all my guests during this time gave me a brilliant excuse to return again and again to a whole variety of my favourite places of artistic excellence, uplifting worship and delicious food and drink! Several local restaurant owners I think were particularly sad to see me return home at the end of my stay! It was good to be in Venice for St Mark’s Day as well as Ascension Day, festivals which are celebrated annually in colourful manner by the Venetian people.
One of the daily disciplines I tried to follow during my sabbatical was to spend some time each morning reflecting on “The Joy of Being” (a little book of daily spiritual readings given to me by Roy) and reading one poem a day from the modern anthology “Lifesaving Poems” (presented to me by Michael just before I set off on my travels to the Venetian lagoon). One particular poem struck me as being very apt during my time away: it is called “A Poem for Someone Who Is Juggling Her Life” by Rose Cook. I thought you might like to read it, and perhaps usefully apply it to yourself too, especially as things begin to pick up again after the summer holidays and we all become busy with both necessary and more trivial tasks once again:
This is a poem for someone
who is juggling her life.
Be still sometimes.
Be still sometimes.
It needs repeating
over and over
to catch her attention
over and over,
because someone juggling her life
finds it difficult to hear.
Be still sometimes.
Be still sometimes.
Let it all fall sometimes.
One thing that happened here during my time away was that, for two separate short periods (thanks to a rota signed up to by willing volunteer keyholders) the doors of our church were left open during the day for people to come into St Oswald’s at times other than for our usual services or events. One week was dedicated to offering some different focus areas within the church to enable people to reflect on aspects of The Lord’s Prayer, as recommended by our Archbishops during the time leading up to the feast of Pentecost. The other Open Church week was when we offered a place of sanctuary following a tragic death of one of our parishioners, where people, young and old, could freely come in to mourn, privately or collectively, and to write in the book of condolence provided. These opportunities given to the wider community to come in to use their Parish Church for times of focussed reflection, including searching for peace or trying to make sense of things, were readily taken up by adults, by children of our various schools and by our RiCH Group. At our recent PCC meeting we agreed that making the church building more available for people to call by sometimes in the midst of otherwise busy daily routines, was an excellent thing for us to pursue, remembering also our experience of opening the church during last autumn’s Refugee Crisis Appeal, which again was welcomed by members of the local and wider community.
So starting this September, we have decided to open the doors of St Oswald’s during the day every Wednesday (except of course if the church happens to be needed for part of that time for a funeral service, for example). We are calling this new venture #quietplace and we do hope that everyone in our local community (and other visitors from further afield) will be able to benefit from the chance to simply come inside our lovely Parish Church, to rest here for a while, to spend time with your own thoughts and with God, and by doing so to find inner guidance, renewed strength and courage for any trials or adventures you may face. Why not come in and enjoy a moment’s peace and quiet within the walls of a building that has served local people in so many different ways over the course of its 108 year long history!
We’d be grateful if you could let all your friends and neighbours know about this new plan to open up St Oswald’s between the hours of 8.30am and dusk every Wednesday, beginning on Wednesday 07 September 2016. Please feel free to make yourself a cup of tea or coffee whilst you are here, if you wish, and there will be a small library of books to dip into and some other occasional resources available to help you relax and focus your mind. We have a permanently well-stocked Children’s Corner too, so please don’t hesitate to bring along any small children you happen to have in your care that day: they will of course be welcome to come and play alongside you, as long as you remember to keep at least one eye open as you pray, to make sure your baby or toddler remains safe! And of course as you know there are baby-changing facilities and loos alongside our main entrance. Before you leave, please do also write a comment (signed or not, as you like) in our new Visitors’ Book, so that we can pick up on anything you have found helpful, or any new suggestions you may have for us to consider, or perhaps simply mentioning anyone or anything you would like us to include in our prayers on the following day at our regular Thursday morning 9.30am Communion service. Thank you.
May the God of care and compassion, who seeks to offer each of us a whole range of opportunities for relaxation, refreshment and renewal of purpose, bless our church and community this autumn and always.