Charles writes – October

So the time has come.  Farewells are always very hard, but for all of us the time comes for change and new beginnings.

We have loved our time in Faringdon, and it has been an amazingly fruitful and rewarding time.  Our boys have loved growing up in All Saints’, and enjoying being part of a church where children and young people are so strongly included and valued.  We are especially grateful for all the children’s and young people’s leaders who have encouraged them and helped them, along with the many other young people in our congregation.  As a whole family we have felt very much loved and cared for, especially in the years when we were struggling to care for our autistic son James at home.

I’d also like to thank All Saints’ congregation for such a wonderful commitment to our work together, especially in the challenging times such as when we had to face the extra cost of excavating “the 341” – it has been amazing the way everyone has pulled together!

I have also loved ministering at St Mary’s.  The small congregation at Little Coxwell have been consistently helpful, positive and affirming – facing and meeting every challenge and it has been always a pleasure to be there sharing in worship and fellowship.

There are of course many challenges ahead.  With the completion of the Barber Rooms, a new chapter has begun for All Saints’.  Faringdon itself is changing – the growth and new building is making a huge difference to the character of the town, and the task of being a church for the whole community is an ever changing challenge.  At the same time the Barber Rooms themselves are creating many new opportunities to welcome and engage with the community around us.

I am confident that All Saints’ and St Mary’s will meet whatever challenges lie ahead, trusting in God’s help and guidance.  And it’s not about waiting for a new Vicar – the work of the church will continue through the vacancy, with new initiatives as well.  For example, the second of our newly restarted “God in our Lives” evenings will happen later this month, and a new initiative is currently being planned – the PCC have invited Pam de Wit to lead Training sessions on “Welcome Everybody” in January – a very important initiative – do get the dates in your diary! Of course it will be all the more important that everything is undergirded by prayer.  A new prayer evening is planned in October and monthly thereafter.

So it’s good to know that though the Drapers are leaving, the journey for All Saints’ and St Mary’s is continuing without a pause!  It only remains for Jane and I to say thank you so much for all we have shared together and our love, prayers and warmest wishes to you all,

Charles

Autumn

As another birthday approaches, a song from “The Yeomen of the Guard” reminds me that if you think of a life as though it’s like a year with its seasons, then I have definitely reached Autumn.

In my eighth decade I know that I have far more time behind me than I do in front. I see beauty in everything I look at, from the face of a baby to the beauty of the night sky. My perspective has changed. I now take time to look at what is around me, and I am much less disturbed by the things that used to upset me.  I’m less aggressive in many things like my driving or the way I react to the stupidity of some political decisions or in bureaucratic procedures. My family are getting more used (bored?) with me saying, “Will the world stop? No? Then relax.”

And having reached Autumn I don’t feel dispirited, partly because I have always loved this season. The brightly coloured leaves, the crisp cool mornings, the signs and celebrations of harvest, all give my morale a boost.

Nature has a particular loveliness when spring and summer are gone. So it’s not unreasonable to expect that in human nature something of the same beauty will be there when the days are drawing in and life is less active. I’m not thinking about faces, but there’s often a quiet kind of radiance in an old face that is so similar to the bright and eager faces of childhood and youth. I just wish that people nowadays let nature do her work unhindered. But we know not to ‘judge a book by its cover’. Nature may look to us as though she’s dying gracefully, but actually she’s very busy getting ready for the Spring.

So in my Autumn I can look back over my life and, and as it were, reap the harvest of my investment in time and effort in such things as family and friendships, as I see my children now grown, and grandchildren growing, and can celebrate such things as 50th anniversaries of graduations and other achievements.

Autumn too, is a season in which we don’t have the pests of spring and summer, things such as flies, mosquitoes, and rapidly growing weeds. And also it’s free from some of the problems of Spring – adolescence, when spots and acne made one so self-conscious and when peer-pressure quite often determined the people one could be seen with!

Hopefully, for you who are enjoying this Autumn maturity, you’ll tend to eliminate the trite and petty from your lives. Those of us at this stage know that life is too short to let personal vanity or the fickleness of public opinion deflect us from some of our daily joys.

And of course we mustn’t forget the harvest celebrations, a special time with family and friends when we pause to consider how blessed we are. This year we include in our celebrations the harvest brought about by the work of Charles, Jane and the boys. We hope that our work with them will also, in due course, bring about a harvest of its own in their lives. This Autumn in our lives should be the season for remembering and reflecting, a time to take pleasure in past and present abundance.

Of course, there is a chill in the air in autumn, a reminder that winter is not far away. Similarly, at this season we begin to face the fact of our own mortality. People, like leaves, die and turn to dust.

Yet with winter comes Christmas, and Christmas pre-echoes Easter. Yes, the flower fades and falls to the ground, but its seed will bloom again. And so autumn is a hopeful time.

The fact that death is approaching, when I shall leave this world, doesn’t fill me with dread. The anxiety that I see in my friends who have no faith, doesn’t exist for me. I don’t know what is to come, but I have faith in the belief that our Good Lord has some pleasant surprises for us beyond the threshold of our earthly lives. I find I draw confidence from Paul’s words, written in the Autumn of his life, in 2 Timothy 4:7-8, “I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith. Now there is in store for me the crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous Judge, will award to me on that day–and not only to me, but also to all who have longed for his appearing”.(NIV)

The evidence for God’s existence and His active role in our lives can be seen in many ways. The beauty of autumn is just one of them. So, please, let’s not live our lives as those who believe in naturalism, chance, and survival of the fittest. “Seek ye first the Kingdom of God, and all these things [what you need in life] will be added to you.”

Max Young