River Wissey Lovell Fuller

Anglican Newsletter - November

November 2013


November 2013 Newsletter

Just watched the local hunt go by (some of the hounds using our garden as a long cut).   Tremendous to see the Huntsman’s “pink” and the huge pack of hounds, followed by the horses.   Can’t have any doubt about the season now!   The very warm weather right up to the second week of October has given way to a torrent or conkers falling on us from the huge chestnut that overshadows a corner of our garden, the Bramleys are falling onto the lawn from the old apple tree, the leaves are blowing about and the green is already very evident as next year’s crops push through the newly ploughed and scraped fields.   It’s definitely autumn!   Time to check the log store and the oil tank, to get out the winter vests and try to re-learn how to use the central heating system.

We have to visit some variation of this same pattern every year.   Well into my eighth decade it does not seem remotely boring to re-visit this season, not the other three as they come round.   I suppose we are designed to work contentedly to this normal round and not to find it offensive or irritating.   Many years ago I and my wife visited both Singapore and Sydney (we were then living in the Far East) in order (partly) to see whether they were where we might look to live once our assignment was over.  It did not take us long!   Singapore had NO seasons – continually and continuously humidly hot, with heavy rain every now and then.  Gorgeous, but where was the freshness of an English spring or the sharp cut of a walk across the moors on an icy day?   Sydney in March was so hot and oppressive that it did not seem possible to actually be comfortable.

As is probably apparent, we chose to come back to live in England (I should say Western Europe, because we really hanker to up sticks sometime and go to France!).   We all have our comfort zones – not just geographical ones, but political, social, family, community and so on zones of comfort and security.  We come back to them to re-invigorate ourselves, to simply heal, to gently slumber.

We all know the question often asked of people who may or may not be religious – about where they think their God is.   Some of us most easily find him in a Church or temple of worship.  Some of us more easily find him out in the open looking at the wonder and wonders of Nature.   Christians take especial comfort in the presence of the Holy Spirit, who is more often described as the Comforter than anything else.   But ‘Comfort’ is a strange word.   It comes from the Latin and means ‘with strength’.   Nothing cuddly about that – which is how we tend to use the word Comforter nowadays (and the Americans with us have the special meaning applied to what we call a baby’s dummy).   So Comfort has more to it than just being comfortable.

When we go to Church, we are not reminded often enough of the most important part of most of our services – which is the departure!   After a service, we are, hopefully, re-invigorated, healed and eased, but to which end?   It is so that we may leave and share our good feelings with those around us.   The Church Door is the way from the Church to the outside world, not the entrance to a cubby-hole where we may hide in comfort.

So, as the autumn closes in and turns towards Winter, I wonder what our attitudes are?  The days are getting shorter and colder, we are looking forward to gathering close together around the fire, watching TV for longer, letting visits to friends and family become less frequent.   That seems to me to be right.   Our instincts lead us to do that.   The danger is that the habits of the autumn and winter become the habits of the following Spring and Summer.   In past times, there was little to do in the house and the sun beckoned everyone out to get busy with repairing the damage of the winter season and with looking after the fields in order that the harvest would be good.

The danger for our modern comfortable times is that we stay inside; forget the vests and just turn on the heating even on a cool day in the summer; order online instead of going out to touch and see what we want to buy; send tweets instead of having garden gate conversations (gossip is not necessarily harmful or unhealthy);  listen to I-Pods, instead of singing with our friends in some community situation;  give our children Kindles with an Amazon account instead of reading them the traditional stories of our culture;  and so on. . .

This is not an angry gripe, it is a sad reflection on some of the trends that I seem to see about me.   But my grandparents were just as sad in their day, so a proper sense of proportion is needed.  So my thought is very strongly that it is me, not society at large;  that I rely too much on inward looking for Comfort, to the exclusion of outward strength – ‘outreach’ as it is currently buzzed (and not just in Churches!).   It would do me good to have more people dig me out of my deep armchair more often.   Is that true for you as well?

Keith MacLeod

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