|From the Rectory |
After such a long period of miserable and cold weather we can at last begin to see spring emerging. As the sun rises ever higher in the sky each day, all of our hearts are given a welcome lift. Shouting Alleluia! this year seems even more appropriate. New life, new beginnings and all that God holds in store for us is prepared and ready to be unfolded.
My own garden at the rectory looks as if a steam roller has rolled over it. Some precious plants simply didn't survive the extreme cold. Others did, despite all that the winter threw at them. They clearly have deep roots and a real determination to survive.
Each year as Easter approaches Christians dig deep into the roots of their faith. Lent study groups help us to prepare for the great day, the day of resurrection. The stone is rolled away from the garden tomb and God's great and mighty plan is revealed. "The Lord is risen, He is risen indeed. Alleluia!" That revelation does not take place in the temple, not in some mighty and grand palace, but like Jesus' birth, it happens in a humble everyday setting. This new beginning happens just like that first beginning when God created Adam - in a garden. Now the second Adam, Jesus walks in a garden and we are all invited to walk with him. I pray that you will all have a wonderfully uplifting and spiritually joyous Easter. "The Lord is risen, He is risen indeed, Alleluia!"
An Easter Tree
Have you thought about decorating a bare branch for Easter? It's a bit like a stripped down Christmas Tree, but instead of tinsel and lights, decorated with coloured eggs, palm crosses and other symbols of Easter. The eggs symbolise new life and inside they have the colours of Easter, white and gold. There are lots of things in the shops for you to use. It really can be a talking point and an opportunity for you to explain what Easter is really all about.
The Rector's plans for 2011
Next year I will have been in ordained ministry for seventeen years. That's seventeen years which apart from annual leave has given me only one day off a week - if I'm lucky! It will be nineteen years since commencing training for the priesthood. Those years have been particularly demanding as you might realise. The clergy want always to give you their best, to do that we need to be at our best, not always easy, and I expect you sometimes notice, not always evident. Once you have served fifteen years of continuous service in ministry, five years of which have to have been in the same diocese you are entitled to take a Sabbatical, up to three months. This offer has to be taken up with three or more years of service still to come before retirement age at 65 years is reached. So for me, it's now or never and I've decided that it's now.
There are very strict conditions to be observed, and it takes a least a year to put them all into place. I will be out of the parish for the entire three months, not allowed, in fact, to be a part of normal parish life. I am planning two retreats during this time, some time for my wife and family and hopefully a holiday. The reasons for my possible recall due to emergency will be agreed with the Churchwardens. The Bishop, Archdeacon and Area Dean and members of the PCC all support this time 'away' for me.
It is also a condition that I work on a particular project which may or may not have benefits for the parish when I return or for the wider church. I am going to write a book. This will be a reflection on the changes that are necessary when you move from the secular world of industry, (I worked for thirty years in the printing industry, ten years running my own business), to that of ordained ministry. They are profound and the cost is not acknowledged by anyone as far as I have been able to determine. I want to try to change that in some way. To make it clear what, in reality it can be like.
Whilst I'm on Sabbatical I will be away for much of the time, but obviously working at home as well. I ask that you respect my privacy and need to disengage in order to complete this task. I hope that it will refresh and inspire me to work for whatever time I have left as your parish priest and also that it will allow me the opportunity to fill up my spiritual bank which is practically running on empty after all these years of use. This Sabbatical does not include normal holiday entitlement. So I could be away for a further six weeks if I so decide! This is not an extended holiday. That's why I am spelling it out clearly. This is not a holiday, it's study leave and goodness me I need it. As the preparations continue I will keep you all informed of the progress. The sabbatical should include absence over a major festival. But I have chosen to be here for those. I enjoy them, and I enjoy them because I share them with you. I plan to be away from the Sunday after Ascension Day until the last Sunday in August. Cover for services and ministerial cover is already being planned. There may be some nice surprises waiting for you.
Yours for Christ's sake.