The Parish Church of St John-at-Hampstead

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January 2017

Navigating the New Year

Diana Young

“O Lord, when thou givest to thy servants to endeavour any great matter, grant us also to know that it is not the beginning, but the continuing of the same unto the end, until it be thoroughly finished, which yieldeth the true glory; through him who for the finishing of thy work laid down his life, our Redeemer, Jesus Christ.”

The prayer I’ve quoted above is attributed to Sir Francis Drake (although it seems that while he wrote the words, someone else may have turned them into a prayer).  I came across it recently, and it seemed rather apt for us – and certainly for me – as we continue into the final months of the interregnum.  It’s been a group effort; for some it has meant additional work; for all of us it has involved waiting and uncertainty.  There have been times of joy and times of grief.  I for one am very grateful for all the help and support I’ve received from so many in different ways since last May.  Let’s keep going now until our new Vicar arrives, finish the job and welcome Jeremy Fletcher in style on 16 March!

So, why Sir Francis Drake?  Well, despite having been born in Yorkshire, I can also claim to be a Devon girl; I spent most of my childhood there.   I remember being impressed by an early trip to Plymouth Hoe, the place where Drake was said to have lingered to finish his game of bowls as the Spanish Armada advanced.  Our Houses at school were named Drake, Grenville, Hawkins and Raleigh after those four great 16th century sailors – all of whom were born in Devon.  My house was Grenville – and we were green!  Of course, now I know that there was also a darker side to my seafaring heroes, despite their many achievements.

As I contemplate the New Year there is much uncertainty ahead for me.  At some time during the year I shall be leaving Hampstead Parish Church, and my home of thirty years in North Finchley, but I don’t yet know where I shall be going.  I’ve been looking around, and I have some ideas, but I’ve also been asking myself, “What is God calling me to do next?” I really don’t know yet.  It’s uncharted territory. 
Perhaps all of us in Hampstead Parish Church face a similar question this year, “What is God calling us to do next?”  A new Vicar may also bring new challenges, perhaps a change of direction. Perhaps we will be asked to do some things differently.  We all have the choice between openness to God’s calling and insisting on our own ideas, our own ways of doing things.  So, although our ways will part, perhaps God is calling us all into a new kind of adventure this year.  As I pray for my own discernment of the path ahead, I pray also for Hampstead Parish Church that the road ahead may be full of possibilities.  And I leave with you the second prayer which I came across (also attributed to Sir Francis Drake, although on rather more slender grounds) – but which seems to me to be just what I need to hear as my adventure with God continues:

“Disturb us, Lord, when we are too well pleased with ourselves.
When our dreams have come true because we have dreamed
too little,
When we arrive safely because we sailed too close to the shore.

Disturb us, Lord, when with the abundance of things we possess
We have lost our thirst for the waters of life;
Having fallen in love with life, we have ceased to dream of eternity.
And in our efforts to build a new earth, we have allowed our vision of the new Heaven to dim.

Disturb us, Lord, to dare more boldly, to venture on wider seas
Where storms will show your mastery;
Where losing sight of land, we shall find the stars.
We ask you to push back the horizons of our hopes,
And to push into the future in strength, courage, hope and love.”

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