Parish Church of St john the Baptist

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Vicar's Letter

 

1st April 2020

Dear Friends,

I walked into town this week to collect a prescription and it was lovely to see so many smiling faces. That’s not unusual for me because in our lovely town, folks are always smiling and saying hello as I pass. What gave me an extra sense of joy this week was that my clergy collar was covered by a scarf and most of the people I passed didn’t know me, and yet they still smiled. Everyone seemed to be keeping their distance, giving a friendly glance and a knowing look of ‘we’re all in this together’. I described my feeling as ‘joy’, but it was more than a fleeting moment of pleasure; it tapped into something far within me – the sure knowledge of God and the blessings he brings in good times and in bad.

The word ‘joy’ has had something of a revival in recent years thanks to the Japanese organising consultant (there’s a job description of our times if ever I heard one!), Marie Kondo. Her method suggests that we should only keep items in our home which spark ‘joy’. Many find her suggestions too severe, but I think she has a point; if material items are going to remind us of unhappy times, then why keep hold of them?

In the dictionary, the word ‘joy’ is described as a feeling of great happiness, but I want to suggest this isn’t the same as Christian joy. Emotions which we experience are passing responses; Christian joy endures. Christian joy isn’t about fluffy sentimentality, it means that despite everything, there’s a deep-rooted sense of peace and contentment in the heart of each of us. As the psalmist wrote, “Weeping may linger for the night, but joy comes with the morning” (30:5b). Whatever we’ve endured; however desperate, however scary, however sad we may have felt, our souls still have the potential to heal and feel that joy once again.   

This Sunday is of course Palm Sunday, and I’ve been reflecting on the many times we’ve celebrated this special day since we’ve been in Royston. We’ve processed around the park in rain, sun and snow, and we’ve marched around the church with paper palm leaves made by our children. This year our Palm Sunday worship will look very different and we’re required once again to acclimatise to these ever-changing times. However, I believe we’re at an advantage; we’ve already adapted to distressing times following the fire in the church. We survived the trauma of that fateful day and quickly recongregated as the Body of Christ in the school, the Town Hall and the Methodist Church. We’ve seen how God has guided us through these last fifteen months and how he has been faithful in his care and provision. He isn’t going to stop now; as we read in the Book of Lamentations, “The steadfast love of the Lord never ceases, his mercies never come to an end” (3:22).

I’ll be celebrating a quiet Eucharist at home on behalf of everyone in the Parish and many of you will be joining me in prayer and worship - online, on the television and radio. Wherever you are, let’s remember we belong to one another, and may we all be united in one joyful voice as we say,

Hosanna to the Son of David!
    Blessed is the one who comes in the name of the Lord!
Hosanna in the highest heaven!
(Matthew 21:9)

Every blessing, Heidi.

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