The Parish Church of St John-at-Hampstead

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February 2017

Jan Ruston Writes


Dear Friends

It is that time of the year when a gentle slothfulness can be what we expect of life: the days are still short, the air sharp and the trees not yet ready for new buds to push forth.  Nothing much happens in February .... our hearts are not yet stirring with the anticipation of spring.  Rather we have an expectation of blazing fires to curl up beside and cosy beds to snuggle down into.  Time to stop and recover after the frazzling activity of celebrating the birth of our Saviour.  Yet as I write it is two days before the inauguration of Donald Trump as the forty-fifth President of the United States of America.  Perhaps the most unpredictable President the US has ever anticipated.  And yesterday our Prime Minister Theresa May, presented her vision of what ‘Brexit means Brexit’ does mean for her!  It was strong stuff, full of firm lines and determination, if perhaps somewhat light on detail - though what more could she tell us?  No, this year, 2017, will not allow us to drift through the winter months! 

Early this morning my neighbour phoned wanting to know what I did indeed think of that speech yesterday!  Back in June my thoughts on the matter were the final persuasion she needed to vote with her son for Europe.  Knowing I was likely to disagree with her, she was wanting to hear another point of view - though having heard it, that is: ‘It’s all in the detail, our ability to protect the quality of our products, the well-being of our workforce, the standards of our agriculture’ - I think felt inclined to very definitely go back to sleep again!  As you may have realised I enjoy a good debate!  My neighbour quite rightly, wished for an end to the sharp edges - to put it mildly - she was encountering around her in extreme differences of opinion.  She wished for everyone to get behind Theresa May and will her every success!  And she’s right, being united matters - though not at any cost.

Roots are important, they matter too, they give us the stability which we all need to take hold of life.  They are the ground out of which we grow.  Yet, again and again in Scripture, we see that it is the breaking up of old forms which is the seedbed of new life, fuller life.  As the people of Israel wrestled with change, wrestled with circumstances they would certainly not have chosen - such as exile in Babylon, they discovered new things: new things about who God is - monotheism;  new things about how we live together - that the love of God is for all people, not simply a chosen few, that the foreigner is not our enemy. 

Without challenge mostly we do not have the courage to risk change, to risk opening our hearts to the new.  But it is openness to change, it is when we reflect on, question where we are, creatively allow our imaginations rein, experiment with new ideas, and  hold together as the one Body of Christ with all the richness of our differences - and all the discomfort that inevitably brings with it, it is here that we discover the creative moving of the Holy Spirit among us. 

It is the searching for new vision, new understanding, and cohesion which leads us closer towards God.  This requires us to listen sensitively to the needs of others and to know and live by the truth of Christ which is in us.  Can we get the most out of one of the Lent Groups which begin in March; come and join in as we explore together ‘The State of the Church’ at the 21 Group at the end of February. As we look forward into the future of our globalised world, the future of our nation outside Europe, the future life of our Church with our new vicar, our own personal futures, shall we be open to a new moving of the Spirit in these turbulent times?

With all best wishes for a reflective February!

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