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Who do you think you are?

| Simon Bale | Vicar's Blog

You’ll in “news and Notices” that Stoke St Gregory church are planning a weekend of browsing and exploring, investigating and researching. On 15th and 16th April we are bringing a selection of archives from the country registry to be opened and perused (carefully, of course) in the church. We’ve done this before, I am told, quite a few moons ago, and I am excited to learn about some of “what has gone before” in and around the village. Of course, I am personally not expecting to discover anything about my own history whilst pouring over the various documents, but I am keen to read about the lives of those who grew and lived in the area and whose lives are recorded in the registers.

Since arriving here in 2021 I have gradually met and chatted to many people (the lockdown got in the way for quite a few months of course!) and have discovered the villages in the benefice are a mixture of locals and incomers, and I often muse as to how long one needs to be in the area before the latter becomes the former. I was born and grew up in Bristol, and only moved from the city after my 51st birthday. I was at least fourth generation Bristolian, with my great-grandfather probably being born in the city. My two grandchildren are sixth generation (I think Yate, just north of Bristol, counts as Bristol, perhaps…). [Footnote: it might well be that my great-great-grandfather was from “round these parts…”].

Such “roots” are important to me. I identify as Bristolian, and always will, I suspect. As the saying goes, you can take the boy out of Bristol, but not Bristol out of the boy. But it isn’t like that for everyone. Some of use live in one place all our lives and others move regularly. The names written in the books soon to be viewed in Stoke St Gregory will feature the names of families who still live locally. Others will be long gone and people will say, “Oh, I remember so-and-so… their great-grandson married so-and-so and I think I went to school with the grandson of Mr Whatsit.”

The important thing is that we remember to remember. It is in remembering that we can maintain a sense of our own identity. As we recall the names of people we once knew or dig deep into our own past to reflect upon where we’ve been, we ensure our own lives have value. I would go so far as to suggest that it is in the relationships with others that we can be sure of who we are. I make my life out of meetings with other people. We are made real by encounters. We can learn who we are by bumping into people. We weave our lives out of fellowship and when we remember we can be ready to face the future with roots that go deep: not necessarily in a place, but through families and friends.